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South African Legal Research: Custom

Focus: Sources to support U.S. law students working in a South African legal aid clinic

Selected Sources About Customary Law in South Africa

TIP: Taiwo notes that South African courts "now apply customary law subject to the Constitution and any legislation that specifically deals with customary law."  (See p. 91 of Taiwo's Repugnancy Clause article, cited below in "Recent Articles.") 


Constitution of the Republic of South Africa

See sections 31 and 211 of the Constitution.

Reform of the Customary Law of Succession and Regulation of Related Matters Act 11 of 2009

Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act 41 of 2003

Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998

South African Constitutional Court cases concerning customary law (identified by Kerr):

Gumede v. President of the Republic of South Africa (CCT 50/08) [2008] ZACC 23; 2009 (3) BCLR 243 (CC); 2009 (3) SA 152 (CC) (Dec. 8, 2008)

Shilubana v. Nwamitwa (CCT 03/07) [2008] ZACC 9; 2008 (9) BCLR 914 (CC); 2009 (2) SA 66 (CC) (June 4, 2008)

See the discussion about determining customary law (para. 42) and the factors that the Constitutional Court states are relevant to making its determination about "the content of a particular customary norm" (para. 44).  Continue reading to find out whether Ms. Shilubana could succeed to a traditional leadership position (Hosi of the Valoyi community). 

Bhe v. Khayelitsha Magistrate (CCT 49/03) [2004] ZACC 17; 2005 (1) SA 580 (CC); 2005 (1) BCLR 1 (CC) (Oct. 15, 2004)

Shibi v. Sithole (CCT 50/03, CCT 69/03, CCT 49/03) [2004] ZACC 18; 2005 (1) SA 580 (CC); 2005 (1) BCLR 1 (CC) (Oct. 15, 2004)

Alexkor Ltd. v. Richtersveld Community (CCT19/03) [2003] ZACC 18; 2004 (5) SA 460 (CC); 2003 (12) BCLR 1301 (CC) (Oct. 14, 2003)

Recent Articles (BLS patrons: BLS librarians can help you to find most of these articles in SA ePublications: Law ($)):

Bennett, T.W., Legal Anthropology and Comparative Law: A Disciplinary Compromise?, 21(1) Stellenbosch L.R. 4 (2010)

Kerr, A.J.  

The Constitution and Customary Law: Notes, 126 S. African L.J. 39 (2009)

Kerr includes a list of literature that might help courts to apply customary law on pp. 41-42.

The Nature and Future of Customary Law: Notes, 126 S. African L.J. 677 (2009)

Mmusinyane, Tumi, The Role of Traditional Authorities in Developing Customary Laws in Accordance with the Constitution: Shilubana and Others v. Nwamitwa, 2008 (9) BCLR 914 (CC), 12(3) Potchefstroom Electronic L.J. 136  (2009)  

Mmusinyane includes a useful bibliography.

Mqeke, Richman 

Guidelines for Determining the Constitutional Injunction To Apply Customary Law in the New South Africa: Notes, 126 S. African L.J. 689 (2009)

Transformation of Customary Law by Traditional Leaders, 23(1) Speculum Juris 123 (2009) 

Taiwo, E.A. Repugnancy Clause and Its Impact on Customary Law: Comparing the South African and Nigerian Positions - Some Lessons for Nigeria, 34(1) J. for Jurid. Sci. 89 (2009)

Taiwo provides a helpful bibliography.

Legal Encyclopedia (available online in LexisNexis South Africa ($) and available locally in print at Columbia Law School's Diamond Law Library):

The Law of South Africa, v. 32 (Indigenous Law)

Frequently Cited Treatises:

Becker, J.C., Seymour's Customary Law in Southern Africa (1989)

Bennett, T.W.

Customary Law in South Africa (2004)

Human Rights and African Customary Law under the South African Constitution (1999)

Kerr, A.J., The Customary Law of Immovable Property and of Succession (1990)

N.J. Olivier et al., Indigenous Law [1995?] (LAWSA Student Text - LexisNexis South Africa indicates that this book is out of stock.)





















































































































TIP: Search De Rebus -SA Attorneys' Journal

TIP: To identify recemt legal articles about South African customary (indigenous) law, conduct this advanced search in De Rebus - SA Attorneys' Journal (monthly):

Containing all these words in the heading: recent articles and research

Containing this exact phrase: customary law

In the left frame, check the boxes next to sources: "Current Issue"; and "Archived Issues" for 2010.