North West community leaders held three workshops to consider the Traditional Courts Bill which is currently out for public comments. Discussions on the Bill have been robust, with many depicting the brutal oppressive state of traditional governance they are subjected to in their rural communities. Communities insist that many Chiefs are not fit and proper to preside over (traditional) courts, and that the traditional courts bill should not be enacted whilst the land claims, which will have direct impact on traditional structures and governance, were still pending.
Other pertinent points raised against the Bill are that:
- The Bill is gender biased and discriminatory against women since the role of women in traditional structures is not fairly treated;
- The Bill denies accused/defendant/respondent parties the right to legal representation;
- The Bill does not afford accused/defendant/respondent a choice to litigate in other judicial structures (eg magistrates courts);
- The Bill empowers the chiefs to impose unlawful sanctions or punishments like ‘lepasha’ (working for the chief or community without pay);
- The Bill does not recognize other traditional dispute resolution structures at dikutle(community) level;
- The Bill will endorse and empower, disputed and apartheid imposed chiefs onto communities;
- The Bill does not provide adequately on the need to assess the fitness and competency of the chiefs to hold public office like the traditional court;
- The Bill does not afford land claiming communities a choice not to be subjected to traditional courts; and
- The Bill does not take into account the disputed traditional authorities, land restitution process and current territorial disputes
The North West public hearings are scheduled for the 18 May 2012, 10am at Tlhabane Hall.
‘Why are rural communities sent to a township to discuss a Bill that impacts on rural traditional customs?’, asked concerned community leaders from Tsitsing village.