09/02/2017 17:33 SAST | Updated 09/02/2017 17:34 SAST

Traditional Leaders Feel Left Out Of Sona

'Our kings should be invited and paraded.'

Gallo Images / City Press / Leon Sadiki
Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana and his wife Makhalmeshe at the opening of Parliament in 2012.

Traditional leaders should be front and centre at Sona walking hand-in-hand with President Jacob Zuma to open this year's parliament, Contralesa provincial chair Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana told News24.

Speaking on what they expect from this year's Sona, Chief Nonkonyana said traditional leaders felt side-lined by the government.

"Some of us are of the view that even at the opening of Parliament, our kings should be invited and paraded."

Nonkonyana said traditional leaders expect Zuma to address some of their concerns when he delivers the State of the Nation address at 7 p.m.

The traditional leader said Zuma must address the question of their powers and functionality which are currently not dealt with by the Constitution.

"The question of the traditional court bill that must be passed must give traditional leaders powers to be immune from criminal prosecution in their application of their judicial execution. This must be tabled during Sona."

An earlier draft of the bill was rejected in 2016, following criticism from opposition parties and women's rights groups, who said it trampled on the rights of women, especially in rural areas, News24 reported.

Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery said the updated bill had taken time to finalise due to extensive discussions about issues including the rights of women.

Traditional courts would hear cases which include assault where there is no grievous bodily harm, trespassing, crimen injuria, and even allegations of witchcraft.

Courts would not mete out fines, but will award compensation of up to R5 000.

Nonkonyana also advised Zuma to fund all houses of traditional leaders to help play key roles in rural development.

"If he [Zuma] can speak along those lines and allow us to participate in uplifting our people."