Zuma concedes Traditional Courts Bill is flawed but attacks those opposed to it

President Jacob Zuma on Thursday acknowledged to the National House of Traditional Leaders that the Traditional Courts Bill is flawed because, among others, it balkanises black rural people according to the tribal boundaries of the defunct Bantustans.

The President’s concession that the current Bill cannot be passed is a great victory for the rural people who travelled far, and at times under difficult and dangerous circumstances, to voice their opposition to the Bill. This victory is particularly significant hot on the heels of the Select Committee of the National Council of Province’s attempt to eliminate the overwhelmingly negative public submissions on the Bill from being considered in the parliamentary process.

Regrettably, President Zuma undermined the principle of separation of powers, and the Constitution itself, when he launched an attack on those who participated in the hearings. He accused the detractors of the Bill of saying they are merely “dealing with cold facts. They will never tell you that these cold facts have warm bodies”.

If President Zuma was at the public hearings, he would have noticed the many ‘warm bodies’ testifying to the abuses of some unaccountable traditional leaders. Given the consistent disdain with which Parliament has treated the many South Africans who reject this Bantustan Bill, the President’s accusation is outrageous.

President Zuma reportedly painted the detractors of the Bill as “Africans most eloquent in criticising their cultural background”. In fact, ironically, opposition to the Bill stems from its distortion of living customary law which is about participation and accountability.

President Zuma’s reference to “Africans and the ‘white law'” is a cheap shot to silence those who oppose the Bill. However, a fundamental question must be asked, is the President saying the Constitution is white law? And, if so, what does this say about that the many black rural opponents of the Bill?

Yesterday, the Presidency accused the media of sensationalising Zuma’s utterances and misleading the public. In fact, it is the deeply flawed legislative process and the President’s doublespeak about the Bill that aim to mislead and silence a broad public that has rejected this Bill since 2008.

Given the procedural flaws and the fundamental problems with the Bill, the Alliance for Rural Democracy reiterates that it must be withdrawn. No measure of tinkering will make this Bill pass the constitutional test.

For more information contact:

  • Nomboniso Gasa: 083 451 9321 or 083 7791435
  • Wilmien Wicomb: 078 9208366

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 Bill will have on the rural constituencies they serve and support. The ARD includes the following organisations:

  • Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA)
  • Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
  • 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
  • Greater Rape Intervention Programme (GRIP)
  • Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR)
  • Justice and Women (JAW)
  • Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA)
  • Law Race and Gender Research Unit, University of Cape Town (LRG)
  • Rural Health Advocacy Project Lesbian and Gay Equality Project
  • Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre
  • Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC)
  • Rural People’s Movement
  • Rural Women’s Movement
  • Section 27
  • Sonke Gender Justice
  • South African Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI)
  • Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ)
  • Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Project (TVEP)
  • Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)
  • Triangle Project
  • Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC)
  • Unemployed People’s Movement
  • Women’s Health Research Unit in the 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.
Released by the Alliance for Rural Democracy