Here it comes again…. the Traditional Courts Bill

Dubious motives ……..

justice minister masuthaMinister of Justice Michael Masutha is to re-table once again the Traditional Courts Bill setting up a parallel system of justice in rural areas,  he says.   Minister Masutha was appointed by President Zuma in May 2014 and this same Bill, known to have the President’s wishes behind it, was withdrawn last year in the form it was proposed. It was thought by many to have been scrapped.

Whether this is an election ploy or whether a draft will actually appear from the Ministry of Justice for public comment remains to be seen. Should it appear, in whatever shape and form, it will have to be debated as a Section 76 Bill by all nine provincial legislatures. At least five would have to approve it for the Bill to move forward from the NCOP to the National Assembly.

Gender insensitive

It was said at the time by the media when President Zuma originally withdrew the Bill that it had been proposedtraditional chiefs
as a trade-off with traditional leaders to get rural support. The Bill then was perceived as chauvinistic by many and was certainly frowned up by legal professionals as a distinct attempt to set up two legal systems and was therefore constitutionally unacceptable.

Lulu Xingwana, at that particular time Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, said the proposals “took the issue of women’s rights back into medieval times”. Her ministry was subsequently closed down.

Unexpectedly, the incumbent Minister of Justice, before his 2015/6 budget vote debated just before Parliament went into recess, told a parliamentary media briefing that he intended to re-introduce the Bill as “a priority”. He added. “We are working with representatives from traditional leadership and civil society to take this process forward, with a view to introducing the Bill in June.”

Majority provinces voted against

butheleziDr Mangosuthu Buthelezi, in his capacity as leader of the IFP, said of the old Bill when it was debated by all nine provinces, that five provinces had put in votes to scrap the proposals entirely, two would not make a decision and only two were in favour. Even then, said Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the two in favour did not support all the Bill’s provisions. In the end, he noted, the Bill did not even get past parliamentary committee stage in the NCOP.

“Its demise marked a major victory for rural people who had opposed it”, he said.    Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s view was that the Bill would bring oppression by traditional and unaccountable leaders many of whom were apartheid appointees. “It would have meant also the resuscitation of some of the boundaries of the old Bantustans”, he added.

Four tiers of govt

Chief Buthelezi also noted at the time that the Bill would mean that chiefs would become a fourth tier of government, something the country could ill afford. The Minister of Justice’s next move should be to gazette a draft for public comment.

Previous articles on category subject
President Zuma determined to push Traditional Courts Bill – ParlyReportSA
Zuma goes for traditional support with expropriation – ParlyReportSA

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