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Traditional leaders slam constitution

Resource type: News

Pretoria News (South Africa) |

Original Source By Xolani Mbanjwa South Africa’s world-revered constitution has come under fire from traditional leaders at the National Heritage Council (NHC) conference in Pretoria. They believe the constitution has protected the rights of the minority groups such as gays and lesbians while disregarding the rights of Africans, and their cultural heritage. The conference, which seeks to identify and ratify conflicts between traditional African practices and human rights, has been touted as a platform for the SA Human Rights Commission, government, youth bodies, animal rights activists, academics and traditional leaders to resolve lingering tensions. At the beginning of the two-day conference yesterday, the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South African (Contralesa) claimed the constitution was too “Westernised” and barely entertained the practices, traditions and belief systems of the Africans. They cited the ongoing battle with the animal rights groups such as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), which is part of the conference, with regards the slaughter of animals during traditional African rituals. They also complained that the custom of virginity testing and circumcision was viewed as “barbaric” by minorities in South Africa. Sonwabile Mancotywa, chief executive for the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) said the conference was long overdue. He said it was important to find a way whereby human rights were respected without undermining African belief systems and culture. Mancotywa noted the “brouhaha” over former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni’s ritual slaughter of a bull following his release from prison on fraud charges. The NSPCA complained, saying that someone had bitten the animal’s tail. He said that since colonialism, “settlers denounced African culture as a deviation from the norm while holding up theirs as a standard to be emulated by Africans”. He said the conference would attempt to review existing policies, challenges that impact on African cultural beliefs and human rights and make recommendations for new policy proposals to Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan. Professor Muxe Nkondo, a member of the NHC technical committee, said there was a fear that African cultures and knowledge systems were being marginalised. “The main problem could be that since the appearance of Europeans in Africa, the continent has been seen in Western eyes as something savage. “Native Africans have to develop practical ways of authenticating our values and we can’t do this by using Western forms to judge Africans,” said Nkondo. He charged that the constitution protected minority rights at the expense of majority attitudes. Professor Joe Teffo, dean of humanities at the University of Limpopo, said there needed to be more than the “cosmetic” consultation when determining legislation concerning African cultures. “There will always be tension between culture and modernity in Africa and it won’t stop even if women can’t be chiefs. “In a melting pot of cultures, the constitution should not pronounce itself contrary to African culture, heritage and existential jurisprudence,” said Teffo.