LARC alarmed over ‘rush to complete public consultation process on Traditional Courts Bill’

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JOHANNESBURG, November 4 – The Land and Accountability Research Centre (LARC) at the University of Cape Town said on Monday it was alarmed and concerned that the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) seemed to be rushing to complete a public consultation process on the Traditional Courts Bill.

The proposed law is one of the so-called “Bantustan Bills” which critics say give traditional leaders too much power over some 18 million South Africans living in former homelands — called bantustans — which blacks were restricted to live in during apartheid.

In a statement, LARC said there was little information available to the public on how the various provinces would managing public hearings on the bill.

“The hearings have taken rural activists by surprise as the bill was only revived in Parliament on 17 October after it lapsed due to national elections,” it said.

“Repeated Constitutional Court judgments have emphasised that lawmakers must act with care to ensure thorough public participation is conducted before adopting new laws. The sudden haste to finalise the bill may leave out some stakeholders.”

The centre said an initial timetable issued by the NCOP’s select committee on security and justice for the consultation process required provincial legislature hearings to be held this week ahead of a final mandate from each province to be received by the end of this month.

Some provinces had since requested an extension on the time-frame but this was yet to be approved by the NCOP.

“Activists are now scrambling to get accurate information and are trying to access transport to ensure that they will be able to participate in the processes,” it said.

“If hearings are going ahead it is crucial for members of the public to be informed with sufficient notice so that they can make plans to attend and so that media outlets can report on what transpires.”

LARC said it was essential that the viewpoints of ordinary people living in rural areas of the former bantustans be heard, adding that in its current form, the bill created a separate justice system for these people and would have a massive impact on their lives.

“Until improvements are made to address fundamental concerns about the bill’s failure to comply with the Constitution, LARC maintains that the bill must be stopped. It remains a threat to rural democracy and the property and citizenship rights of ordinary people,” the centre said.

– African News Agency (ANA)