ANC plan to boost tribal law criticised

2012-11-02 08:24
A rural village in South Africa (File)

A rural village in South Africa (File) (Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Mzinyathi - Chief Mqoqi Ngcobo is already a powerful man, but if the ANC is successful in its bid to give tribal courts more power, he may soon be recognised as prosecutor, judge and jury under the law.

"Here we promote restorative justice, unlike the magistrate courts where they promote punishment," explained the Qadi chief, who presides over a tribunal in the village of Mzinyathi, north of Durban.
"Here people arrive as enemies and leave as friends."

From his office, Ngcobo hears cases ranging from petty theft, domestic violence, and sexual assault to inter-tribal conflicts. Serious crimes like murder are handled by conventional courts.

As villagers shift uncomfortably in their seats, the imposing chief sits behind a large wooden desk listening intently to complainants' and defendants' testimonies one-by-one, often interrupting to ask for clarity.

A typical case

One typical complainant, Mama Cele, 60, wanted the chief to stop her male neighbour from driving her off the land she inherited from her father.

No dockets or recordings are made - exposing the process to misunderstandings - yet under a law put forward by the African National Congress, her fate would be in Ngcobo's hands.

First submitted in 2008, the traditional courts bill empowers chiefs to act as judge, prosecutor and mediator, with no legal representation and no appeals allowed.

According to government, the bill is aimed at providing "speedier, less formal and less expensive resolution of disputes and promotes and preserve traditions, customs and cultural practices".

The powers proposed by the bill will affect some 19 million rural people who live in tribal lands ruled by chiefs.

The role of tribal courts

Traditional courts, often situated in remote areas where people do not have formal schooling, are conducted in only local dialects.

Ngcobo insists they play a fundamental role in dispute resolution and maintaining harmony.

In a sense a change in the law would only formalise South Africa's hybrid legal system, which already combines conventional legislation with customary laws.

Yet the law has proven controversial.

The 2008 draft was withdrawn to align it with the Constitution. Three years later it was brought back - with no changes.

Legal experts and rural activists argue the proposed law creates a separate second class justice system for rural communities, where women have fewer rights.

In some tribal lands women are not allowed to stand up when addressing men or sit in the same space as them during court proceedings.

Sindiso Mnisi, an African customary law researcher at the University of Cape Town, likened the bill to apartheid-era legislation, which forced people into self-governing rural homelands to live under separate laws.

"This bill entrenches separate categories of citizenship and disenfranchises rural people," she said.

"Separate laws determined by geographic location can't exist in harmony with the democratic values."

Traditional leaders' support

Its ignorance of legal representation and appeals processes renders it unconstitutional, she added.

The KwaZulu-Natal Rural Women's Movement complains women's rights activists were not consulted during the drafting of the bill.

While meant to "affirm the values of the traditional justice system" it would deprive rural women equal access to justice, said the organisation's director Sizani Ngubane.

Action group the Alliance for Rural Democracy also wants the bill scrapped.

"We wish for the ANC to reassert the principle of one law for one nation which represents a fundamental departure from colonialist and apartheid attempts to 'ghettoise' some sections of our nation merely on the basis of their race and location," the alliance said.

The bill is currently under consideration in Parliament, but critics accuse the ANC of trying to use it to retain support of the traditional leaders ahead of a year-end crucial ANC elective meeting.

At the December meeting President Jacob Zuma hopes to be re-elected as leader, virtually guaranteeing another five year-term at the head of Africa's largest economy.
- SAPA
Read more on:    anc  |  legislation  |  culture
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
55 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!
13 things you might not know about Disneyland
The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is so much going on around you and inside your head. You may want to take your ideas to the next level. Romance may be...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.