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The Traditional Courts Bill: Reconciling the irreconcilable?

08 May 2012
12:30 - 14:00

Date :08 May 2012

Time :12:30 – 14:00

This seminar may be attended via video conference in Pretoria, Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal. Details as below. Speaker will be situated in the Cape Town Video Conference Centre.

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The South African government has sometimes been accused of continuously attempting to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable demands of traditional leaders and opponents to traditional institutions of governance. Both sides argue that the government’s efforts are unjustifiably in favour of the other. The Traditional Courts Bill (TCB) – recently reintroduced to the National Council of Provinces after being withdrawn from the National Assembly in which it was introduced in 2008 – constitutes the latest legislative attempt by government to regulate customary law and traditional leadership. 

Rejected by civil society for being inconsistent with the constitutional protections given to rural people under the Constitution, the TCB will be reviewed, in terms of its relationship with the provisions in the Constitution for traditional institutions to be recognised and given a role. It will also be evaluated in light of its impact on the notion of “living customary law” as introduced by the Constitutional Court, and the rights of rural South Africans. 

The panel discussion will focus on what protections our Constitution gives to custom; whether customary law is autocratically determined, or created through the participation of multiple voices; what powers are appropriate to traditional leaders in our constitutional democracy; as well as the democratic rights of ordinary rural people to participate in the making of laws that affect them.

Participants include:

DR SINDISO MNISI WEEKS is a senior lecturer in the Dept. of Private Law & a senior researcher in the Law, Race and Gender Research Unit at UCT. She teaches African Customary Law and also works on the Rural Women’s Action-Research project.

PROF. RICHMAN MQEKE is the Advocate of the High Court of South Africa and a professor of law at Rhodes University. He has served on the South African Law Reform Commission’s (SALRC) project committee on Traditional Courts. 

Moderator: PROF. THANDABANTU NHLAPO is the senior deputy vice-chancellor at UCT. He is a scholar of the customary law and has served on the SALRC and Nhlapo Commission on traditional leadership.

Background documents:

Kindly RSVP by 3 May 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: