|2012 05 25 DA opposes Traditional Courts Bill|
THE Democratic Alliance will oppose the draft Traditional Courts Bill in its entirety, party leader Helen Zille said on Thursday.
The Traditional Courts Bill was withdrawn after widespread opposition in 2008, but an amended bill was reintroduced by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development last year.
The bill aims to establish traditional courts, each presided over by the officially recognised senior chief, or his delegate, in a defined tribal area. The bill has raised a storm of protests, since it provided the chiefs with the power to decide what the traditional law is on any specific issue, and summon people to appear in such a court, and preside over hearings and hand down sentences.
The bill undermined constitutional democracy and did not promote the development of customary law, Ms Zille told journalists at Parliament.
"Instead, it creates an entirely parallel legal system which undermines the rights of women in particular," she said.
"The bill reinforces apartheid-era homelands and powers. It is a throw-back to Bantustan boundaries into which more than four-million people were forcibly removed under the infamous Black Authorities Act of 1951," Ms Zille said.
She said customary law should take into account the experiences of women and children specifically, as well as their rights to equality and to participate in the practice of their culture.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said every person had the right to have any dispute that could be resolved by the application of law decided in a fair public hearing before a court, or independent and impartial tribunal.
However, traditional leaders did not satisfy the criteria for independence or impartiality "exactly because they often make the law, interpret, adjudicate, enforce it, and may often benefit from the penalties they imposed".
The bill would also violate the doctrine of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution and central to any democratic society.
The bill is currently being dealt with in the National Council of Provinces.