oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - How customary is African customary law?



While the study of customary law has shed much of its earlier European ethnocentricity, and has become responsive to autonomic development, it remains preoccupied with small-scale rural societies. Urban customary law has hitherto received only scant attention; yet, it is in the urban area that the centre of customary law development lies. The urban area is no longer merely an extension of the rural; in fact, at least in South Africa, the position today is reversed. Autonomic customary law is self-generated and self-regulating. It is fluid by nature and does not lend itself to being confined in a fixed, written form. As the life-world of the people changes, so do the rules and processes of autonomic customary law. African autonomic customary law, in particular, has shown a remarkable capacity for adaptation to external influences. Today's autonomic customary law is not the same as the customary law of the pre-colonial past. The traditional communal spirit, however, remains.


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