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18 April 2019 | Story Rulanzen Martin

The Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice IRSJ) has initiated a Social Justice Week at the University of the Free State (UFS), which started on Friday 12 April  until Wednesday 17 April 2019. 

Ten key events took place during the week. It ranged from dialogues, workshops, talk shows, debates, and interactive displays and events on issues of multilingualism and diversity, social innovation, engaged scholarship, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, gender sensitisation, sexual consent, sexual preparedness, universal access, disability, anti-discrimination, and security.

There was also a round-table discussion on 17 April 2019 with various UFS stakeholders on off-campus student security as well as an inter-institutional discussion on the same topic. The UFS Debating Society will take on the topic of the UFS Language Policy, while Olga Barends from the Free State Centre for Human Rights will host a dialogue on sexual consent.

The IRSJ has also designed and implemented SOJO-VATION: Social Innovation/ Social Change, which strives to create a foundational platform where ideas of social justice, innovation, and engaged scholarship at the UFS and in society can be hosted. SOJO-VATION partners with the Office for Student Leadership, Development, and Community Engagement.

The collaborating partners for the Social Justice Week includes various UFS stakeholders such as the Sasol library, the Gender and Sexual Equity Office, UFS Protection Services, the Free State Centre for Human Rights, the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Office for Student Leadership Development, Kovsie Innovation, GALA, the FFree State Centre for Human Rights, SRC Associations, the Office for Student Governance, Kovsie Innovate, Start-Up-Grind, EVC, EBL, Community Engagement, the Institutional Transformation Plan (ITP) Dialogues Office, Residence Dialogues, UFS Debating Society, Debate Afrika!, the Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS), and the Gateway Office. 

News Archive

Democracy and traditional leadership in rural areas explored
2017-09-22

Description: Democracy Tags: Democracy, customary law, human rights, research, constitution 

Prof Lungisile Ntsebeza, recipient of the NRF Hamilton
Naki Award
Photo: Supplied


The Free State Centre for Human Rights held a presentation by Prof Lungisile Ntsebeza on 7 September 2017 at the University of the Free State (UFS) Bloemfontein Campus on the topic of democracy and traditional leadership in rural areas. Prof Ntsebeza is the holder of the AC Jordan Chair in African Studies at the University of Cape Town and the holder of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Research Chair in Land Reform and Democracy in South Africa. 

Conflict between democracy and traditional rule
The topic of democracy and traditional leadership in the rural areas is an example of the tension between democracy and customary law governing the appointment of traditional leaders (headmen) that is currently at play in many parts of the country. Prof Ntsebeza made reference to a court case in the Eastern Cape, where a community successfully challenged the appointment of a headman by the royal family of the area. The contention was whether royal families could appoint headmen in rural communities or if those communities ought to democratically elect their own leaders. He argued that in this specific case, the democratic imperatives of the Constitution did not conflict with customary law because of the particular communal practice of electing leaders. 

The Constitution and customary law

The Constitution of South Africa recognises customary law provisions which are not in conflict with its fundamental values. Difficult legitimacy problems may arise where customary practices are different from those governing this particular case. Ultimately the Constitutional Court would be called upon to resolve inherent tensions and develop customary law in line with the direction foreseen in the Constitution.

Student engagement as a vehicle for change
The event was attended by UFS staff and fourth-year LLB students in the Faculty of Law, and was funded by the Free State Centre for Human Rights at UFS. The programme is one of several that the centre seeks to utilise in engaging students with researchers and scholars in the field of law and human rights. Prof Ntsebeza has given academic presentations on various related and trending topics in the current academic climate, such as decolonising the curriculum, Cecil John Rhodes and others. He was recently awarded the Hamilton Naki Award at the 2017 National Research Foundation Awards.

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