Civil society organisations raise alarm on Traditional Courts Bill public meetings
19 Apr 2012
The Alliance for Rural Democracy is alarmed by the extent to which public meetings on the Traditional Courts Bill presently underway in provinces are excluding the very communities that stand to be most affected by the bill.
Alliance partners have attended the education sessions and parliamentary public consultations held so far and have witnessed the voices of rural communities being effectively hindered.
Justice Khumalo from Sonke Gender Justice who attended today’s hearing in Kabokweni, Mpumalanga, says that, "Community members had never seen the bill before today. The provincial legislature only wants to hear input from those who support the bill. The hearing did not do justice to consulting community members on issues that will affect their lives."
Nolundi Luwaya from the Law, Race and Gender Research Unit, who attended today's hearing in Kabokweni says that, “The chairperson of the hearing gave a misleading and inaccurate explanation of the Bill and the concerns people raised were largely glossed over.'
At the Port Shepstone public education session on 16 April only a handful of women were present and their attempt to talk was shut down by traditional leaders. This contradicts democratic practice. The Alliance demands that parliamentarians listen to women’s voices, especially since they were excluded from the drafting process in which traditional leaders were the only ones properly consulted.
Many rural communities seem entirely unaware of the draft Bill, the education sessions and public hearings, which suggests that insufficient efforts have been made by the provincial legislatures to publicise these.
Fearful community members have expressed disbelief at being expected to comment in the presence of traditional leaders.
The Alliance is concerned that people are scared of coming to the public hearings and speaking out against the Bill, in case they may be victimised by traditional leaders as a result.
The Alliance makes the following calls on:
- The Minister of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, to follow her recent public commitment to support rural women on this Bill with action. We implore her to ensure that their views are not ridden rough-shod over in favour of traditional leaders.
- The South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission on Gender Equality to take specific steps to ensure that the voices of ordinary rural people are adequately considered. Safe spaces should be created for people to talk freely about their opinions on this draft legislation. We urge the Commissions to send their provincial commissioners to the hearings to announce that they are there to protect and defend people's right to speak freely and without fear of intimidation.
- Parliament to stop the Bill and to ensure that the rights and participation of rural people, particularly women, take centre stage in the development of a new Bill that is based on constitutional rights and values.
The next public hearings on the Bill are scheduled in the Western Cape Provincial Legislature in Cape Town, on 24 and 25 April. The Alliance will continue to monitor these and other public hearings and we urge all stakeholders to attend and make their voices heard.
The Alliance for Rural Democracy is a cross-section of civil society organisations sharing a common concern about the detrimental effects that the Traditional Courts Bill will have on the rural constituencies they serve and support. It includes the following organisations: Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape (CLC); Corruption Watch; Co-operative Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC); Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC);Democratic Governance and Rights Unit, University of Cape Town (DGRU); Embrace Dignity Campaign; Empilisweni AIDS Education and Training Centre; Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR); Law, Race and Gender Research Unit, University of Cape Town (LRG); Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP); Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre; Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC); Peddie Women’s Support Centre; Rural People’s Movement; Rural Women’s Movement; Section 27; Sonke Gender Justice; Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ); Treatment Action Campaign (TAC); Triangle Project; Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre; Unemployed People’s Movement; Women's Health Research Unit, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town; Women’s Legal Centre Trust. The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) acts as legal advisor to the alliance.
For more information contact:
Sindiso Mnisi Weeks
Cell: 072 616 8299
Cell: 083 651 0271
Cell: 073 085 1794
Issued by: Commission for Gender Equality
19 Apr 2012
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