Her crime? She had broken customary law by calling the police to investigate a burglary at her house without informing the village headman, a traditional leader of the Mbashe royal family of the Xhosa nation, and had insulted his dignity by refusing to appear before his court.
These are not offenses under South African law, but Ms. Ludonga, like millions of other South Africans who live in rural areas, effectively lives in two countries at once. She is a citizen of a modern African democracy that threw off white rule in 1994, then enacted one of the world’s most admired constitutions. She is also a subject of an ethnic monarchy with broad, but largely unwritten, authority under traditional courts.
The tension between those two sometimes-contradictory worlds has reached a breaking point in the past year as South Africa’s government pushes a measure to give traditional courts the force of law, compelling people in many rural areas to appear before them to answer charges that they have violated community traditions.
The fierce debate over the bill, which is unlikely to pass Parliament but unlikely to be completely snuffed out either, has exposed a fault line running deep in South African society between traditionalists — including leaders like President Jacob Zuma, who calls himself a proud Zulu and practices polygamy — and a racially diverse but largely Westernized cultural establishment that fears a return to traditional values will trample hard-won constitutional rights.
“Many of us are very worried that there is an attempt under way to roll back rights and
Category: Africa News