News & events


The Traditional Courts Bill: A step backwards for our constitutional gains on gender equality?

25 July 2012
12:00 - 15:00

Following country-wide provincial public hearings on the Bill, most provinces either rejected the Bill or proposed significant changes. The Bill elicited stiff opposition and was consequently sent back to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. Some alleged that the Bill would deprive rural communities, in particular rural women of their basic rights, challenging the basic foundations of constitutional democracy and gender equality in particular. The fact that a new Bill is contemplated implies that the concept of customary law/courts is accepted as part of the justice system in South Africa although there may be disagreement among communities, legal experts, civil society, traditional leadership etc. If customary law remains part of the justice system, a number of questions arise, amongst others:

  • Should the Bill go back to the drawing board, or should the idea be abandoned in the light of concerns that the equality of rural women in particular will be unconstitutionally violated?
  • What would happen with the views expressed during the last provincial hearings if new public hearings are held?
  • How would the views gathered from the provinces be incorporated into the new Bill?
  • If the traditional court system passes constitutional muster and is democratised, will people be allowed to opt out, and if so, who decides which court to use?
  • If the right to appeal against decisions by the traditional courts is adopted, should the appeal be heard at a higher traditional court or the local magistrate court?

Chief PatekileHolomisa is the Chairperson of Joint Constitutional Review Committee, Advocate of the High Court of South Africa and Head of the Hegebe Traditional Council. He has authored two books: A Double Edged Sword and According to Tradition.

Sizani Ngubane is the founding Director of the Rural Women’s Movement and hails from the KwaMpumuza traditional authority in KwaZulu-Natal.

Moderator: Dr Narnia Bohler-Muller is the Acting Executive Director at the HSRC’s Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery Research Programme and Advocate of the High Court of South Africa.

This seminar may be attended via video conference in Pretoria, Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal

Kindly RSVP by 22 July 2012

Cape Town : HSRC, 12th Floor, Plein Park Building (Opposite Revenue Office), Plein Street, Cape Town. Contact Vuyokazi Ngxubaza, Tel (021) 4668004, Fax (021) 461 0299, or, Cell: 082 0508453

Durban :  First floor HSRC board room, 750 Francois Road, Ntuthuko Junction, Pods 5 and 6, Cato Manor, Contact Ridhwaan Khan, Tel (031) 242 5400, cell: 083 788 2786 or

Pretoria : HSRC Video Conference, 1st floor HSRC Library Human Sciences Research Council, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria. Arlene Grossberg, Tel: (012) 302 2811, e-mail: