BY PROF. CT MSIMANG, MP
INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
In the present times (23 years into democracy) the buzz word in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is TRANSFORMATION. While it is noted that such transformation is happening within a context of dire financial straits, the fact is that transformation in this department is an imperative given the central position of the department as an instrument of securing justice by addressing inequalities and divisions in our society.
Admittedly, the department has a very broad scope and all its programmes must receive attention but this presentation will focus only on transformation which will improve access to justice particularly by the black citizens of this country.
Of primary consideration in this respect is the promulgation of the revised Traditional Courts bill. This bill was introduced to parliament some ten years ago and it is regrettable that it still has not yet been passed. Is this a demonstration of the low regard with which the institution of traditional leadership is held in this country? How so when this institution plus the concomitant African customary law are entrenched in the Constitution? It is often argued that those who are opposed to this bill do so on grounds that it discriminates against women. How could that be possible when the Constitution categorically prescribes that no law which is in conflict with the Constitution shall be valid? How so when the institution itself embraces women as potential members of the institution where a number of those that qualified have been inaugurated as traditional leaders?
The IFP is concerned that African customary law remains largely unwritten and uncodified. It remains only in the memory of certain elders whose survival is threatened by attrition. It is accordingly possible that when people turn to apply it they will find that there are few or no reliable sources on the tenets of this law.
Another essential transformation is the introduction of African languages in court. Besides the fact that they are entrenched as official languages in the Constitution, they are also spoken by a majority of the citizens of the land. While we respect the position of the judiciary that English is the language of record in our courts we still argue that for Africans to access justice via the medium of an interpreter is not ideal.
Granted, the development of African languages as media of the court is dependent on the co-operation of other government departments such as Arts and Culture where structures such as PANSALB should develop the necessary terminologies. Also, the Department of Education should insist on making the teaching and learning of African languages compulsory in schools.
Finally, the IFP calls on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to set up indicators which will spell out when will this transformation take place.
The IFP supports this budget vote.
I thank you.