Presidency corrects reports on Traditional Courts Bill speech

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pretoria - The Presidency has corrected media reports on President Jacob Zuma's speech on the Traditional Courts Bill to the National House of Traditional Leaders in Cape Town on Thursday, which they say have been "sensationalised by some newspapers to the point of being grossly misleading".

In a statement on Friday, presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said media reports indicated that the President had wholeheartedly supported the Bill. They further "deliberately left out his acknowledgements of the shortcomings of the Bill which many stakeholders have raised, which have to be addressed".

"The Bill clearly needs further work and everybody has acknowledged that fact. It is unfortunate that the information was excluded from reports in order to convey a particular view and stereotype," said Maharaj.

In his speech on Thursday, the President said: "The longstanding Traditional Courts Bill offered the prospect of access to justice to 18 million of the country's citizens who reside within the ambit of the traditional justice system. Traditional communities of South Africa find the traditional justice system more accessible and flexible in resolving their disputes.

"However, government has come to a realisation, following public hearings both in Parliament and in local communities, that there are genuine concerns as traditional courts operate outside a proper legislative framework. This leads to accusations of irregularities and abuses in the system.

"The Traditional Courts Bill was then introduced to extend constitutional provisions to traditional justice. However, since its introduction, the Bill has been criticised for being flawed for a number of reasons. They include the following;
- That it is unconstitutional in that it prohibits legal representation in traditional courts.
- That it does not contain provisions to ensure that women form part of the courts nor does it go far enough to ensure that women can participate actively in the deliberations of the courts;
- That it entrenches the balkanisation of traditional communities in accordance with the boundaries of the old tribal authorities of the defunct Bantustans;
- That it restricts access to justice by denying the right of persons to "opt out" of the traditional justice system and pursue redress of their matters in courts of law
- Traditional leaders will have more powers under the Bill.
"All the concerns raised in respect of the Bill are being addressed as part of the on-going parliamentary process. Already Government through the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has put forward certain recommendations on the bill.

"Our view is that the nature and the value system of the traditional courts of promoting social cohesion and reconciliation must be recognised and strengthened in the Bill.

"The Bill should address the gender prejudices and patriarchal tendencies of the past. We also would like the Bill to be improved to ensure that the right of access to court enshrined in the Constitution is not undermined. This would give people the right to access ordinary courts of law where such courts have jurisdiction over the dispute.

"Another recommendation is that the appeal dispensation contemplated in the Bill should be revised as it is undesirable for the decisions of traditional courts to be taken on appeal to courts of law which apply a different value system. The above recommendations will guide possible amendments to the Traditional Courts Bill by the NCOP. There are initiatives by Parliament to extend the deadline of 31 December 2012. The extension will provide the much required time for further public engagement in this important legislative process."

Maharaj said that in the interest of fairness "we believe that the affected media should carry the adequate and proper correction". -

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