n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - A critique on traditional courts, community courts and conflict management

Volume 20, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



There is an ongoing debate about the place of traditional and community courts in South Africa. Some people feel that both traditional and community courts have previously operated in a brutal manner to address problems. Therefore they are regarded as a threat to communities and must be abolished. On the other hand, some believe that both courts should be given a chance. Those who are in favour of traditional courts are traditional leaders themselves, as well as rural communities which value these institutions. There are also people from urban settings who still see the need for the existence of traditional courts. Those who are against the traditional courts are mostly the youth and urban adults who do not value African culture any more. Another perspective on the existence of community courts is that which is prevalent in most of the South African townships. Community courts were popular during the period of political struggle to get rid of apartheid. Most of the community courts were dominated by the youth and there was a lot of bias in terms of handling cases. As a result many people were not impressed by community courts' management style. The focus of this paper is on both the traditional and community courts and their modus operandi in terms of conflict management. The major focus is on factors that make people feel uncomfortable about these courts. The research methodology employed in this research is personal experience of community courts, for example, previously seeing how street committees and 'kangaroo courts' operated, informal interviews , as well as secondary data from newspapers, texts, magazines and electronic media (videos). In the final instance, the paper attempts to suggest some solutions to the problems.

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