Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini at the annual harvest celebration.

He has been accused of making anti-gay statements.

(Copyright © – Office of the Premier, KZN)

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe has said that the controversial Traditional Courts Bill that could have disastrous consequences for gays and lesbians in rural areas, will not be withdrawn but that it is a work in progress.

The bill would create a parallel system of justice in which traditional leaders in rural areas would be able to unilaterally decide on matters and hand out punishments on the basis of traditional and cultural law.

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.

According to SAPA, Radebe said last week that the proposed legislation would continue in the parliamentary system and would not be redrafted outside of it.

“Doing so will not only interrupt the vibrant discourse occurring in Parliament that will shape the end product of this bill, but will allow the department to redraft another bill somewhere in a dark corner of its corridors, away from the public eye,” he said.

Earlier, Women’s Minister Lulu Xingwana said that the bill violated the rights of women.

Radebe said that he would consult those opposed to the bill, both within and outside of government, and that public hearings would be still be held on the legislation.

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

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