John Ncinane (standing in front) from Sanco in Buffalo City said the Traditional Courts Bill is against democracy and constitution. Picture: Sithandiwe Velaphi
The majority of people who attended public hearings on the Traditional Courts Bill (TCB) in East London rejected it – saying the bill was the return of apartheid.
The provincial legislature under the leadership of Xolile Nqatha, chairperson of the local government and traditional affairs portfolio committee, held hearings in Queenstown, Lusikisiki, Mthatha and East London.
The bill, through its proposed section 76, seeks to "affirm the recognition of the traditional justice system and its values, based on restorative justice and reconciliation".
In the traditional court an offender will not have a defendant, but can be defended by his or her chosen neighbour. A traditional court will hear civil disputes arising out of customary law and custom.
Thabang Maseko was among those present. He said the bill had to be reviewed because it violated human rights. "I do not welcome this bill because it seems that it is a reversal to the apartheid government which dictated to people," said Maseko, a community activist.
John Ncinane, from South African National Civic Organisation based in Buffalo City, said the bill was against democracy and the Constitution.
"I reject this bill with the contempt it deserves. If it has to be passed people must have legal representatives during their cases."
Siyasanga Mazinyo, of the Rural People's Movement in Grahamstown, said the bill violated women's rights. "Away with this bill.
In the past these traditional court processes were heard near the kraal and according to our traditions, women are not supposed to sit near kraals."
However, in the same hearings in Mdantsane, Nomvuyiselo Magingxa from Peddie, said the proposed bill was a good move. "I welcome this bill.It used to exist but it was not regulated. This bill will give traditional leaders many responsibilities because some of them get paid for nothing," Magingxa said.
In terms of the bill, the presiding officer of the traditional court will either be a senior traditional leader, a king or queen, headman or headwoman of the royal family.
Nqatha said the concerns raised by society during the hearings would be taken into account. "This is a proposed bill, if there is a need for it to be amended that will be considered.
"I can assure you that there will be no unfair treatment of people." Nqatha said once it became an Act, the bill's contents would apply to all people living in rural areas ruled by traditional leaders.
Makuliwe said if traditional affairs presided over certain cases again it would ease the backlog of cases at mainstream courts.