Court Room Library

I have never had to listen to Africans hating themselves like in a recent After-8 debate on SAFM one morning. The Traditional Courts Bill just approved by Cabinet was on the table. The agitation came from people who never grew up or lived in rural areas. The stupidity is in referring to these courts as sub-alternatives to “The main-stream judicial system”. Hello!!! The Roman-Dutch Law is a Traditional Court or legal system to the Romans and the Dutch.

You pay no cent to have your dispute with your neighbour resolved by Inkundla. Before we go any further, these are old courts they are not a new introduction to your “main stream law”. They are busy as we speak but not in your township.

“These kangaroo courts are backwards and will disadvantage women” In Roman Dutch Law: give me the number and status of female lawyers, magistrates and judges. Meanwhile, traditional councils that handle cases now have a mandatory 40 % minimum female representation.

Sense: You steal my goat, I see you, I spend money to go and report you to the police station, a paid charge officer takes my statement, hands over the case to a paid appointed investigating officer, he comes to me and everybody else to ask us again if we saw who stole the goat. He hands his docket to a paid prosecutor for a decision to prosecute, the case is handed over to a paid magistrate, You can’t appear before this one, a paid lawyer must represent you…finally you are found guilty and given two options, pay a fine to the government or jail for 6 months, but the goat does not return to the owner. Where is the sense here.

What are fighting with here? We purport to be starting a comparative study between old-fasioned fudalism and modern wonderful democracy. We pretend to be engaged in an intellectual debate about what is right and what is wrong. We fool ourselves to believe that we talk for the illiterate people in the villages, when we don’t have that mandate. In fact we insult them by assuming they can’t think for themselves. Yet, our biggest problem is self-hate, we hate our royal authority because it is one thing that does not come from Europe or a beneficiary of European indoctrination, it is precolonial. It is original.

In its current draft, the Bill, unlike many laws in this country, guarantees the “equal treatment of women” in these courts. This is a stipulation of the democratic dispensation, in traditional communities and courts women enjoyed special treatment, not equal to men, especially widows, the disabled and abused women.

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