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Old regime laws to be reviewed

by Nthambeleni Gabara
on 09 Mar 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

The South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) will be embarking on a programme to review and modernise all statutory laws passed in 1910 to date.


"The purpose of the revision process is to modernise and simplify the statute book, reduce its size and saving time of legal professionals and others who make use of it," said SALRC chairperson, Madam Justice Yvonne Mokgoro on Friday.

Ms Mokgoro was addressing a conference where the Commission handed over its research publications to Justice and Constitutional Development Minister, Brigitte Mabandla.

She said all laws that are not aligned with the priority led by the government will also be reviewed.

"One such law is the Black Administration Act of 1927 which does not define African customary law. It singled out Africans as a separate segment of society, subject to a different, discriminatory set of rules and laws," Ms Mokgoro said.

The purpose of this she said was to ensure that people are not misled by obsolete laws masquerading as "living" law, she said.

The Commission's objectives include doing research and investigations with reference to all branches of law in order to make recommendations for development, improvement, modernisation and reform.

"We don't embark on research that will end up subjecting to biting the dust, but we do research to repeal unnecessary provisions and removal of anomalies," she said.

According to Ms Mokgoro, part of the purpose of the report is to reform the customary rule of male primogeniture.

There is also a recommendation that states property rights relating to certain customary marriages are to be protected.

This allows the retention of protection to widows whose customary marriages were dissolved by their husbands who entered into civil marriages with other women.

The Commission also clarified the status of women that fall outside the customary marriage arrangements including marital unions such as ukungena, ukuzalela, ukuvusa.

"The Commission recommends that the women and children in such unions should share in the estate of the deceased who or on whose behalf the union was entered into," the SALRC said.

It also recommended that children adopted in terms of customary law should also inherit from their adoptive parents.

Regarding disputes over the hand over of family property, the SALRC said this will be determined by the Master of the High Court having jurisdiction.

The Commission will also be publishing an Issue Paper to facilitate a focused debate by identifying some issues that need to be considered for reform.

Matters already on the Commission's Programme include Hindu marriages, Community dispute resolution structures, review of the Interpretation Act, Arbitration: Family mediation and adult prostitution.

"Other issues on our programme are sentencing, trafficking in persons, review of aspects of the law of divorce and administrations of estate, to mention but a few," said Ms Mokgoro.

It was also indicated that the scope of the adult prostitution investigation was to review the existing law relating to present the department with the implications of retaining the current position, further criminalisation, legalisation and regular or decriminalisation.

Ms Mokgoro said that the Commission has approved in principle the appointments of experts from 14 national departments by Minister Mabandla to conduct statutory review to increase their research capacity.

Some of the departments mentioned by the Commission include the Departments of Agriculture, Communications, Defence, Labour, Land Affairs, Minerals and Energy and National Treasury.

After receiving the research publications, the minister commended the massive task done by the Commission.

"This is a huge task and as a nation in the making, we must all participate in this programme. It is difficult to describe the previous regime legacy, but it was systematic, there this project is crucial to all of us," she said.

Ms Mabandla said that while the task of transformation is not a simple challenge, everyone should soldier on with the Commission to claim victory of the pro-poor legislation.

"As the department, we will definitely improve our capacity. Currently, we have 14 Bills that need our attention and all are extremely urgent," she concluded. - BuaNews

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System


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