‘Unconstitutional’ Traditional Courts Bill in line for changes
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma this week confirmed that the government was looking at amending the controversial Traditional Courts Bill, which has been criticised for its potential to entrench royal and traditional authority at the expense of basic access to justice and women’s rights.
Women’s lobby groups and other civil society bodies, including the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party, have denounced the bill which they described as unconstitutional.
The bill, currently being taken through public hearings by the National Council of Provinces, has been rejected by four provinces. Addressing the Business Women’s Association in Sandton on Tuesday evening, Mr Zuma said the government had taken to heart opposition to the bill.
"First, the argument raised is that the bill is unconstitutional in that it prohibits legal representation in traditional courts. Second, concerns were raised 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," he said.
One of the criticisms of the bill was that it restricted access to justice by denying those living under traditional authority the right to opt out of such a justice system and go straight to conventional courts of law, he said.
Mr Zuma said public reaction to the bill was "very informative and useful". The departments affected by the bill would discuss the concerns, and look at possible changes.
The president said his government was aware of the need to transform society and eradicate patriarchy. The government’s broad economic and trade policies encouraged the "development and growth of more women-owned enterprises".
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