Justice and legitimacy hindered by uncertainty: The legal status of traditional councils in North West Province
The Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act 2003 provides for the transformation of apartheidera tribal authorities into constitutional-era traditional councils with a role in traditional governance. The process involves reconstituting these councils to meet certain thresholds of women and democratically elected members. Where councils have failed properly to meet the thresholds – seemingly the case in much of North West Province – their present legal status is called into question. In North West, the ambiguity surrounding their status has been compounded by the conduct of the provincial government, underlying tensions in the legislation, and a confusing series of contradictory government notices and court judgements dealing with the issue. This article examines how the reconstitution requirements have been applied in practice in North West and considers the legal and material impacts of the existing uncertainty surrounding traditional councils’ status. Where these councils are put forward as democratic bodies representing traditional communities in North West’s platinum mining belt, these are particularly important issues to consider in relation to the legitimacy of traditional councils.
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