Third round of hearings on the TCB fails to change minds

MEDIA RELEASE by the Alliance for Rural Democracy

November 22, 2013

The public hearings convened by the Portfolio Committee on Local Government and Traditional Affairs of the North West Legislature on Thursday 21 October 2013 resulted in another resounding rejection of the Traditional Courts Bill (TCB). The committee conducted hearings simultaneously in Zeerust, Wolmaransstad, Moretele and Ganyesa.

These hearings were held after the TCB had been sent back to the provinces in October 2013 for an unprecedented third round of public consultations by the National Council of Provinces’ Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Development. North West is the first province to hold further hearings. Most of the other provinces remain steadfast in their earlier rejection of the Bill.

The attempt to solicit a new negotiating mandate in the North West flies in the face of the rejection of the TCB by 95% of the people who participated in the previous round of hearings in 2012. The locations of the latest round of hearings differed from the 2008 and 2012 locations. Members of the Alliance for Rural Democracy who attended these meetings noted several concerns with the way in which the hearings were conducted.

Two bills – the TCB and the North West Tender Board Repeal Bill – were discussed at the hearings. The hearings in Zeerust, Wolmaransstad and Ganyesa prioritised the Tender Board Bill, with the TCB receiving very little attention.

Copies of the TCB in Setswana and English were distributed only at the hearings, not giving participants enough time to understand the content of the TCB. Only brief and general introductions to the TCB were presented. It was clear to observers that participants in Ganyesa, Wolmaransstad and Zeerust had very little understanding of the Bill and its implications.

In Moretele, strong opposition was voiced to the Bill itself, to the whole consultation process since 2008 and to the undemocratic manner in which yesterday’s hearing was conducted. The chairperson of the meeting attempted to sideline these objections.

At some hearings frequent reference was made to amendments to the TCB that had ostensibly been made. Participants’ questions about the details of the purported amendments were evaded.

In disregard of strongly worded calls by the majority of participants in Moretele and Zeerust for the Bill to be withdrawn, and the obviously uninformed participation of people in Ganyesa and Wolmaransstad, chairpersons of all the hearings closed the proceedings by suggesting that there was strong support for the Bill and they will convey this message to parliament. In Wolmaransstad the chairperson claimed that participants wanted the Bill to apply to them even though they are from township areas.

Following these flawed public hearings, the question that arises is whether the North West’s negotiating mandate will be altered when the TCB comes before the NCOP Committee in February 2014. The ARD will continue to watch with vigilance how the North West Legislature takes the process forward now that it is clear that the hearings were aimed at swaying the province’s mandate but instead have yielded further stiff opposition to this Bill.

We maintain that the hearings were an unreasonable, unprocedural and costly exercise that should not have taken place.

Issued by the Alliance for Rural Democracy

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The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) 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.  The ARD includes the following organisations:  Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA); Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; 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; Greater Rape Intervention Programme (GRIP);Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR); Justice and Women (JAW); Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA); Centre for Law and Society, University of Cape Town;  Lesbian and Gay Equality Project; Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre; Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC); Rural People’s Movement; Rural Women’s Movement; Rural Health Advocacy Project; Section 27; Sonke Gender Justice; South African Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI); Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ); Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Project (TVEP);Treatment Action Campaign (TAC);Triangle Project; Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC); Unemployed People’s Movement; Women’s Health Research Unit in the 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.

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