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South African government never gave customary law full and proper recognition and its recognition was driven by state need to be secured when dealing with indigenous people and their systems.

On 13 October 2017, the University of Venda (Univen) in partnership with National Association of Democratic Lawyer (NADEL) hosted Customary Law Seminar at Univen Library Hall.

The seminar focused on topics such as customary marriages, tribal authority and African jurisprudence.

Family is important in every culture- Prof Nhlapo

Prof Thandabantu Nhlapo said section 39 (2) and (3) of the constitution provides for judicial developments of customary law and recognizes rights or freedom conferred by customary law.

Prof Nhlapo said the issue of marriage is fascinating because it leads to family and family is the building block of society. “Family is important in every culture. African culture is very pro-marriage and pro-children,” Prof Nhlapo added.
Prof Nhlapo further added that customary marriages must be recognized and celebrated. “The requirement for customary marriage is that the prospective spouses must be above the age of 18,” said Prof Nhlapo.

Prof Nhlapo is a renowned customary law expert with an academic career spanning over three decades of research, writing, teaching, public service and social activism. He is a former senior Deputy Vice Chancellor at University of Cape Town.

Sometimes we are forced to look customary law as inferior because of colonialism- Ms Mopai

Customary Law Expert and Lecturer at Univen, Ms Zama Mopai, said customary law is about the customs and usages of tradition observed by the indigenous people of South Africa and which forms part of the culture.
Ms Mopai stressed that customary law is part of people’s daily lives. “Sometimes we are forced to look customary law as inferior because of colonialism. Every African should understand customary law. There used to be a clash between common law and customary law,” Ms Mopai added. Ms Mopai said it is difficult to separate customs from belief.

Ms Mopai outlined that there are two types of customary law which are living and official customary law. “Living customary law evolves as communities change their values whereas official customary law easily change and it is written and captured in statutes, judicial precedents and books,” Ms Mopai said.

Attorneys should be equipped with customary law- Ms Sosibo

Ms Memory Sosibo of NADEL, said that as NADEL they want to make sure that everyone have access to justice.”

Ms Sosibo said attorneys should be equipped so that they can give proper justice. “Customary law governs many people in our lives,” she added.

Customary law is very important- Ms Letuka

Ms Puleng Letuka, Deputy Dean in the School of Law, alluded that customary law is a very important aspect of the law. “The African way of doing things is very important. We should have an important discourse on it,” Ms Letuka added.

We encounter challenges when dealing with customary law matters- Mr Ramafalo

“Matters that involve customary law are difficult to deal with because they are not written. There is a lack of proper documents that support customary law. We face this challenge everyday in our practice,” said Mr Justice Ramafalo from Legal Aid South Africa in Tzaneen.

Government should define the role of traditional leaders- Dr Mashau

A lecturer in the English Department, Dr Godani Mashau, said that cases of witchcraft are difficult to deal with because it is also not written anywhere. “Until the government defines the role of traditional leaders, there will always be a conflict between traditional leaders and government elected leaders,” Dr Mashau added.

Issued by:
Department of Communications & Marketing
University of Venda
Tel: (015) 962 8525
Date: 17 October 2017

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