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Colloquium on Customary Initiation on the Cards

March 15, 2021

The Presidency

A Colloquium on Customary Initiation is on the cards.

President Ramaphosa referred to the proposed Colloquium during his reply to the debate in the National House of Traditional Leaders.

The president expressed the hope that it takes place prior to the next winter initiation season.

He referred to the Customary Initiation Bill currently on the national assembly (NA) Order Paper for consideration.

The select committee on cooperative governance and traditional affairs, water and sanitation and human settlements introduced amendments to the bill and returned it to the NA for concurrence in December 2020.

The bill was tabled in parliament in April 2018 and the NA passed it and sent it to the national council of provinces (NCOP) for concurrence at the end of 2018.

The NCOP revived the bill in October 2019.

The bill seeks to:

• provide for the effective regulation of customary initiation practices;
• provide for the establishment of a National Initiation Oversight Committee and Provincial Initiation Coordinating Committees and their functions;
• provide for the responsibilities, roles and functions of the various role-players involved in initiation practices as such or in the governance aspects thereof;
• provide for the effective regulation of initiation schools;
• to provide for regulatory powers of the Minister and Premiers;
• provide for the monitoring of the implementation of this Act;
• provide for provincial peculiarities; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

According to the bill’s memorandum, it seeks to protect, promote and regulate initiation by providing acceptable norms and standards, structures at national and provincial level to ensure that initiation takes place in a controlled and safe environment and clarity on the various responsibilities, roles and functions of the key role-players in customary initiation.

In terms of the Traditional Courts Bill, the president pointed out that, last month, the justice and correctional services committee requested a legal opinion on its constitutionality.

According to the president, it is “critical that these matters are resolved to align the functioning of traditional courts with our constitutional values”.

The bill was amended by the NCOP and returned to the NA for concurrence in December 2020.

The bill was tabled in February 2017.

Cabinet approved the revised draft bill in December 2016 for tabling.

The bill is designed to transform the traditional courts system so as to ensure that traditional courts function under and comply with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The proposed legislation also calls on traditional leaders and those who guide the proceedings to pledge to uphold the Bill of Rights.

Some of the objects of the proposed legislation include:

• Affirm the values of customary law and customs in the resolution of disputes, based on restorative justice and reconciliation and to align them with the Constitution;
• Affirm the role of traditional courts in terms of customary law;
• Create a uniform legislative framework regulating the structure and functioning of traditional courts in the resolution of disputes, in accordance with constitutional imperatives and values;
• Enhance the effectiveness, efficiency and integrity of traditional courts in the resolution of disputes;
• Facilitate the full, voluntary and meaningful participation of all members in a community in a traditional court in order to create an enabling environment which promotes the rights enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Constitution.

The president also declared that it will be a moment of great historical significance when the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act comes into effect next month.

He added that “it has been a long and difficult road towards official recognition, and our focus must now be on ensuring integration and effective participation”.

A Commission on Khoi-San Matters is to be appointed.

The president indicated that this would be a “critical step that paves the way for the reconstitution of traditional councils and the induction of newly-elected members of Traditional Councils”.