The Land Restitution Bill approved by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on 24 March 2014 may raise a cheer from traditional leaders, but it is not the game-changer that President Jacob Zuma promised in his State of the Nation address last year.
The Traditional Courts Bill (TCB) is dead. This follows years of opposition from civil society and is a massive victory for the thousands of people in rural parts of the country who spoke out against the bill during provincial public hearings.
The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs says that traditional institutions have a role to play in a democracy.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Richard Baloyi, dismisses concerns that the Traditional Courts Bill will not be fair, adding that there is space for people to play their role.
“Government cannot pass a law that suppresses other members of society. People should not fear,” he argues.
President Jacob Zuma has tacitly endorsed the controversial Traditional Courts Bill, telling chiefs not to buy in to the legal practices of the ‘white man’.
Speaking at the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders in Parliament, Zuma said Africans have their own way of solving their problems through traditional institutions.
He argued that prisons are done by people who cannot resolve problems, adding that, "Let us not be influenced by other cultures and try to think the lawyers are going to help.”
Eighteen years into democracy, the power of traditional leaders and the lack of regulation of land administration are still disadvantaging poor people.
Traditional leaders are making land administration decisions based on powers they deem to be ‘customary’ but that were given to them under colonialism and apartheid. The Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act of 2003 opened the door for traditional leaders and councils to play a role in land administration.