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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
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Cow fine for chief's name in newspaper

By unknown | Feb 14, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Alfred Moselakgomo

Alfred Moselakgomo

A woman who intends taking her chief to the Constitutional Court for unlawful eviction was yesterday fined a cow by the tribal court after her story was published in Sowetan.

Kgosi Tlhame Moepi of Bakgatla Ba-Mocha in Marapyane in KwaMhlanga last month ordered Molly Mokonyane, 40, to dismantle her shack.

He fined her R50 for refusing to do so because he did not want his village "to be turned into Mabopane station". Mokonyane used the shack as a kiosk to sell fruits and vegetables.

Mokonyane, who argued that she was the only one being evicted while other vendors were not, took the matter to the Constitutional Court, claiming unlawful eviction.

Her lawyer, Advocate Mphafolane Koma, said he was challenging the chief's ruling as it was based on the now-defunct Black Areas Administration Act.

Sowetan published the story and yesterday Mokonyane was summoned to a kgotla (tribal court) for exposing the chief's name in a newspaper. She was found guilty and fined a cow which she must deliver within 14 days.

Inkosi Mahlangu, chairman of the Mpumalanga House of Traditional Leaders, said the matter would be investigated.

Jane Duncan, executive director at the Freedom of Expression Institute, said according to the Constitution, the status and role of traditional leadership were recognised, but this recognition was subject to the Constitution.

"This means that when chiefs enforce customary law, they need to do so mindful of the fact that the Constitution is the supreme law.

"In applying customary law, Moepi appears to be interfering with her freedom of expression by punishing her for speaking to the media. A fundamental tenet of freedom of expression is that people should be free to speak without fear of retribution, and Kgosi's fining of Mokonyane undermines this," Duncan said.

She said his action against Mokonyane might also send negative signals to those who have things to say that are critical of their chiefs as they may decide not to speak out.


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