DA head Helen Zille

The Democratic Alliance has officially rejected the Traditional Courts Bill, which could lead to discrimination against women and LGBT people, as unconstitutional.

In statement released on Thursday, the official opposition acknowledged that customary law and customs are recognised in the Constitution and play an important role in traditional communities.

It said, however, that the bill “reinforces Apartheid-Era homelands and powers.”

The bill gives the senior traditional leader the ability to make the law, adjudicate compliance and enforce sanctions, something which the DA said was an unacceptable violation of the doctrine of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution and central to any democratic society.

“The Traditional Courts Bill is fundamentally at odds with the Bill of Rights which is the cornerstone of democracy in South Africa,” said the DA.

It noted that bill does not allow parties before a traditional court to be represented by a legal representative and restricts people’s right to a fair trial.

“The Traditional Courts Bill undermines constitutional democracy and does not promote the development of customary law. Instead, it creates an entirely parallel legal system which undermines the rights of women in particular.”

The DA called for the bill to be withdrawn and suggested that the timing of the re-introduction of the legislation could “be construed as an attempt by President Zuma to buy political patronage in the run-up to the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung in December”.

Activists have expressed deep concerns that granting broad powers to traditional leaders and chiefs through the bill could lead to discriminatory actions and rulings against LGBT people.

Disturbingly, official bodies representing traditional leaders, including the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) and the House of Traditional Leaders, have repeatedly expressed anti-gay sentiments.

They have also called for protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation be removed from the Constitution.

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend