Victory for rural people as most provinces oppose TCB, yet Parliament wants more “consultation”


It emerged at the National Council of Provinces’ (NCOP) Select Committee for Security and Constitutional Development today (15 Oct) that the majority of provincial delegations oppose the Traditional Courts Bill (TCB). Whereas four provinces rejected the Bill previously, five provinces now reject the Bill and only two support it.

Despite this victory for rural people who have consistently opposed the Bill since 2008, the committee today decided to refer the Bill to the provincial legislatures for a third time.

“The decision to bring the TCB back to the NCOP today, a few months before next year’s election, suggests that President Jacob Zuma thinks that traditional leaders can deliver the rural vote. The growing opposition to the TCB shows the opposite: Rural people don’t want the Bantustan version of chiefly power re-imposed on them. This is what elected representatives in the provinces are hearing, which is why the majority of provinces quite rightly are opposing the Bill,” says Dr Aninka Claassens, Director of the Rural Women’s Action Research (RWAR) programme at the Centre for Law and Society, University of Cape Town.

She adds: “If the committee had followed the rules of Parliament they would have voted on the provincial mandates, with the inevitable consequence that the Bill would have been formally rejected.”

Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi, Senior Researcher at RWAR, explains the process thus far: “After provincial public hearings last year where the majority of people rejected the Bill, half of the provinces were against the Bill, while three wanted substantial changes and one needed more consultation. At subsequent national-level public hearings most people again opposed the Bill. Still, the Select Committee sent the Bill back for even more consultation in November last year.”
He adds: “That five of the nine provinces now oppose the Bill, and KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo have withdrawn their support, shows that positions have hardened despite all the political pressure being placed on communities and their representatives. Rural people are saying that there is nothing customary about elevating chiefs to positions of authoritarian power.”

 The breakdown of opposition and support:

·      Provinces against the Bill:  Eastern Cape, North West, Limpopo, Gauteng and Western Cape.

·      Provinces in favour of the Bill but suggesting conflicting and wide-ranging amendments: Free State and Northern Cape.

·      Provinces undecided about the Bill: KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

For more on the TCB, read:

Struggles to assert self-definition against ascribed tribal identities

One-size-fits-all Traditional Courts Bill negates rural diversity

Silencing rural voices contradicts bottoms-up customary decision-making

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