The Democratic Alliance will oppose the draft traditional courts Bill in its entirety, says party leader Helen Zille.
The Bill undermined constitutional democracy and did not promote the development of customary law, Zille told journalists at Parliament on Thursday.
“Instead, it creates an entirely parallel legal system which undermines the rights of women in particular ... The Bill reinforces apartheid-era homelands and powers. It is a throw-back to Bantustan boundaries into which more than four million people were forcibly removed under the infamous Black Authorities Act of 1951,” she said.
A traditional leader would hold power over his or her community, and these people would be at the mercy of that particular leader.
A traditional leader could also easily manipulate the customary law to enrich himself to the disadvantage of others.
Zille said customary law should take into account the experiences of women and children specifically, as well as their rights to equality and to participate in the practice of their culture.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said every person had the right to have any dispute that could be resolved by the application of law decided in a fair public hearing before a court, or independent and impartial tribunal.
But traditional leaders did not satisfy the criteria for independence or impartiality “exactly because they often make the law, interpret, adjudicate, enforce it, and may often benefit from the penalties they imposed”.
The Bill would also violate the doctrine of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution and central to any democratic society.
The Bill is currently being dealt with in the national council of provinces. – Sapa