Civil Society Organisations question Minister Radebe’s manoeuvres on Traditional Courts Bill at Women’s Parliament

The Alliance for Rural Democracy is perplexed that the final resolution on the Traditional Courts Bill of the Women’s Parliament, held on 30-31 August, fails to support the withdrawal of the Bill.

Rural women have long implored Parliament to scrap the Bill and start again on a clean footing, however, women parliamentarians have ignored these voices and rejected that plea. Instead, these leaders have thrown their weight behind Minister Jeff Radebe’s position that the Bill should be retained and amended. This is despite overwhelming opposition to the Bill from Women’s Parliament delegates.

Minister Radebe’s stated rationale is that keeping the current Bill and continuing with the parliamentary process would ensure that redrafting takes place “in the public eye” and not in “dark corners”. Does the Minister think that women are unaware of the redrafts that are circulating everywhere except in Parliament? The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has put forward a document with ‘revised policy options’ as the basis for amending the current Bill. These options fall woefully short of addressing the problems that the document itself acknowledges, illustrating that nothing short of a new process can fix the underlying problems with the Bill.

It is clear that Minister Radebe can rely on powerful allies in the Women’s Parliament to ensure that his position on the Bill is asserted and to deflect attention away from the failures of the Bill. Another blatant contradiction on the part of Minister Radebe is to acknowledge that the Bill is seriously flawed (which the Minister has done), yet to insist that it be retained. The Minister obviously knows that amendments serious enough to fix the current problems would fundamentally change the nature of the Bill.

Minister Radebe’s position, which the Women’s Parliament has unfortunately and possibly unintentionally reinforced, will result in one of two outcomes: Either only superficial changes will be made to the current Bill, or the legislative process will be fatally flawed. In either case, the resultant law is unlikely to withstand Constitutional scrutiny. There is general agreement that the two most fundamental problems are the Bill’s impact on women and its resuscitation of apartheid tribal boundaries, as domains of autocratic chiefly power. The Bill puts at risk hard-won advances made by rural women since 1994, and establishes a separate and unequal legal regime for the 18 million people living in the former Bantustans. In effect, it reintroduces the divided citizenship of the apartheid era.

Government is clearly intent on wooing traditional leaders at the expense of rural citizens in the run up to the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung at year-end. What traditional leaders need to know is that Minister Radebe’s position cannot produce a law that will stick.

For more information contact:

  • Nolundi Luwaya – 083 451 9321 or 083 779 1435
  • Mbuyiselo Botha – 082 518 1177
  • Aninka Claassens – 084 510 2333

The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) is a cross-section of civil society organisations sharing a common concern about the detrimental effects that the Traditional Courts TCB will have on the rural constituencies they serve and support. The ARD includes the following organisations:

  • Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape (CLC)
  • Corruption Watch
  • Co-operative Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC)
  • Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC)
  • Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, University of Cape Town (DGRU)
  • Embrace Dignity Campaign
  • Empilisweni AIDS Education and Training Centre
  • Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR)
  • Law, Race and Gender Research Unit, University of Cape Town (LRG)
  • Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP)
  • Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre
  • Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC)
  • Peddie Women’s Support Centre
  • Rural People’s Movement
  • Rural Women’s Movement
  • Section 27
  • Sonke Gender Justice
  • Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ)
  • Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)
  • Triangle Project
  • Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre
  • Unemployed People’s Movement
  • Women’s Health Research Unit, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town
  • Women’s Legal Centre Trust
  • The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) acts as legal advisor to the alliance.