The Direct Democracy Forum are concerned about the proposed Traditional Courts Bill. It’s very existence raises a serious issue that deserves a DDF response.
The principle objections to the bill seems to be that it perpetuates the same sorts of legal distinctions embodied in the homeland systems of the apartheid era governments and that it does not give women sufficient representation in traditional affairs, It appears that women critics of the proposed bill are demanding equal representation in traditional bodies, which the bill does not provide for.
This report calls the traditional Courts Bill a legal travesty which will further entrench and institutionalise rampant abuse of power by traditional leaders. It makes compelling reading and suggests that the consensus of public opinion is the bill should be withdrawn.
The Direct Democracy Forum have some more fundamental issues pertaining to this legislation. The most basic of these issues is the very nature of institutions seeking to regulate and control the affairs of traditional communities. The DDF strongly believe that there cannot be a separate set of laws applicable to traditional areas than are applicable to the country as a whole. So, in recognising the need to acknowledge the role of traditional leaders in the affairs of traditional communities, the DDF would rather accord them the same status as other local or regional governments, provided also that the traditional leaders are so appointed by democratic means, and laws in those communities are subject to the same democratic processes as are the laws of any other local or regional authority.
The DDF believe that in this manner they can accord the traditional leaders the respect and dignity that is their cultural due whilst at the same time embracing 21st century legislative, administrative and democratic norms, that integrate seamlessly with the legal structures of the country as a whole, and that are subject to the overriding authority of the constitution of the country, through its constitutional bodies.
In short, the DDF don’t believe there should be a further layer of government to specifically cater for the needs of traditional communities when they can be accommodated within existing structures, particularly when such additional layers can become a source of conflict and additional cost to a country already overburdened by an unwieldy and costly administration.