Sonke’s verbal submission at Western Cape TCB hearing

Honourable chairperson, members of your committee and peace loving people of our country!Thank you for affording me an opportunity to make this submission. My name is Patrick Godana and my clan name is Gatyeni, therefore I qualify to speak on this matter. I will share some of the experiences a colleague and I encountered when we embarked on public education sessions last week in Mhlontlo, OR Tambo, Alfred Nzo and Amatole (East London) municipal areas.

I work for Sonke which is an organisation that operates outside government as a pivotal partner to work with men and boys in relation to women, to realise our dream of gender equality, prevention of HIV/AIDS and its impact and to address issues of human rights. We work across the length and breadth of country and the globe as whole. Chairperson, the speaker from the Department of Justice, Mr Matayi, argued in his presentation that the Bill was suspended in 2008 because the committee felt that there were no proper consultations made. The question that I wish to pose – we are now in 2012 – were there any proper consultations made?

Chairperson and committee members, without waiting for the answer, the obvious response is NO!As Sonke and partners we took it upon ourselves to go to the deepest rural settings in our country. It was shocking to learn that even key municipal workers were not aware of this bill and yet last week was supposed to be a week for public education. The question that I wish to bring home is this: how much more ignorant of the bill are the ordinary poor people of those areas if the people in strategic positions were clueless? The bill as it stands gives total powers to the traditional leader, who by the way is a man, to preside over us. Yet the majority our people who reside in those rural settings are women and were left out during the consultation period. Chairperson, we are not in Zimbabwe, we are in democratic South Africa, and therefore this is contrary to our democratic constitution.

Consultation is very important and also using ordinary people’s language so that they can understand what the bill is all about. The Bill, if is passed, is going affect 17 million South Africans who reside in rural settings and will make them second class citizens in their own country. The bill as it stands infringes on constitutional democracy – the rights of women, youth and children will be trampled upon if this bill is passed. Recently a renowned chief, son of an esteemed man in the Tembu land, was quoted saying that “ukuthwala” is our African practice. This means if traditional leaders are given even more powers than what they already have, many young girls will be coerced to marry people against their will. Also if I happen to die, my wife will forced to marry my brother. That custom is called “isiko lokungena, and it simply means, “we can’t let our cattle go free without making up to the bride.”

I am afraid that our youth and women won’t have a say as our custom bars them to participate in traditional courts currently and chiefs given more power will subject our kids to total onslaught.The bill does not address the plight of the most marginalised sector of our society – the LGBTI community. One king as big as myself standing up was quoted saying, “This is unAfrican and such people must be dealt with.” Chairperson I am scared. As matter of fact I can feel goose flesh in me. Please let us respect our constitution!If you intend to give access justice to all, why don’t you make our justice system work – as we did during the 2010 World Cup?I therefore recommend that this bill be STOPPED! and make a fresh start – with proper consultation, which includes everyone who lives in South Africa – young and old.