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Revised Traditional Courts Bill approved

Written by Noluthando Motswai and Bathandwa Mbola
The Traditional Courts Bill has been redrafted to address concerns raised by the public and make it more inclusive.

Cabinet approved the latest version of the Traditional Courts Bill in December 2016, after hard work went into it by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the reference group, which is made up of representatives from traditional leaders’ institutions and members of civil society. Traditional courts promote the equitable and fair resolution of disputes.

“Their focus is on preventing conflict, maintaining harmony and resolving disputes in a manner that promotes peace, social cohesion and reconciliation,” said Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister John Jeffery.

Since 2009, the Bill has been rejected by Provincial Legislature and interest groups as they were scared that it gave too much power to traditional leaders in rural areas and was open to the abuse of power.

The revised Traditional Courts Bill is fundamentally different from its previous versions. 

Deputy Minister Jeffery said his department and reference groups have taken every effort to address the concerns raised in the two previous Bills, which were introduced in Parliament in 2008 and 2012. 

“We have addressed concerns which were raised in relation to the role of women, the right to opt out and in, and what was perceived as an entrenchment of tribal boundaries.

The Bill is intended to improve access to justice, as these courts are easily accessible to local communities, and to dispense justice speedily and cheaply. 

“Although legal representation is excluded, the system allows for assistance to women and other vulnerable members of society.”

The courts enhance access to justice for all who choose to use them as an alternative to resolving disputes.

Deputy Minister Jeffery said the approval of the Bill by Cabinet is a culmination of the tireless work of the reference group, which is made up of representatives from traditional leaders’ institutions and members of civil society.