South Africa - Masutha to return Traditional Courts Bill to Parliament

صورة AGORA moderator

JUSTICE Minister Michael Masutha has confirmed that the highly controversial Traditional Courts Bill will return to Parliament this year after having been substantially revised.

The earlier version of the bill lapsed in Parliament after ferocious criticism from opposition parties, women’s rights groups and even African National Congress (ANC) ministers including then justice minister Jeff Radebe and then women’s minister Lulu Xingwana.

The bill was said to be unconstitutional for creating a second, parallel justice system and for offending the rights of women, particularly in rural areas. It was said that President Jacob Zuma had offered traditional leaders the bill in return for electoral support.

Mr Masutha promised there would be wide consultation with all "stakeholders".

In a written reply to a parliamentary question late last week, posed by ANC MP Mathole Motshekga, about when the bill would return to Parliament, Mr Masutha said: "I intend to introduce a revised Traditional Courts Bill into Parliament towards the end of the 2015 session … around November or as soon as possible thereafter.

"The bill will be preceded by a dialogue with all stakeholders and the broad public. The outcomes of this dialogue will inform the contents of the revised bill. The dialogue and the contents of the bill will be communicated with women’s groups, rural communities, traditional leaders, academics, the legal profession and representatives of civil society, in particular, in addition to being made available for general public consultation."

Democratic Alliance MP James Selfe, a member of Parliament’s justice committee, said he believed that in its original form the bill was unconstitutional and "if it returns in anything like that (state) it will still be unconstitutional and we will oppose it with the utmost vigour.

"However, it is possible to recognise and give a role to traditional courts so long as they conform to the constitution."

In mid-2012, Ms Xingwana said the original bill was discriminatory and oppressive towards women and should scrapped. "We fought to ensure that we have a right to speak and express our concerns.

"This bill will really be taking us 20 years back to a time when women … did not have any say in the running of their country and were silenced…. We all know there are cultural practices which are harmful to women and people with disabilities. For example … ukuthwala … where women and children are forced into marriages."

SOURCE: Business Day, March 24th, 2015,