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

Volume 20, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



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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