Research Portal

Faculty of Law | University of the Western Cape

Research Portal

Faculty of Law | University of the Western Cape


CLIA Symposium Book of Abstracts

The inaugural symposium of the Centre for Legal Integration in Africa features an impressive assemblage of speakers. Read their biographies and the abstracts of their presentations in our Book of Abstracts (attached).

Follow the livestreaming of the keynote address by Professor Brian Tamanaha on the Faculty of Law Facebook Page and on Youtube





The Centre for Legal Integration in Africa has received a National Research Foundation of South Africa Human and Social Dynamics in Development grant (HSD210501598549) of R1,173,600. The award is to conduct research in Limpopo and Eastern Cape provinces from 2022 to 2024 under a project titled ‘Ascertaining the Foundational Values of Indigenous Laws in South Africa.’


Significance of the project
The project is significant because legal history in the global North shows that colonised peoples adapt towards their imposed laws until both indigenous laws and the imposed laws merge. However, indigenous laws usually disappeared if they were not properly integrated with the imposed laws. Furthermore, customary law has a controversial status in the South African legal system. While traditionalists use cultural relativism to defend indigenous norms, change agents use the primacy of constitutional values to promote law reform. Regrettably, the role of indigenous values in shaping normative behaviour escapes attention in both debates and law reforms. Rather, the jurisprudence of cultural contestations shows that judges usually invalidate cultural practices that they find offensive to human rights. Indeed, law reforms are moulding indigenous norms into universalist images of the rights to dignity, equality, and non-discrimination.


What we will do
Using archival searches, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions, CLIA members and research associates aim to generate empirical data on the core values of indigenous African laws to broaden understandings of normativity in postcolonial settings and guide the reforms of personal laws in South Africa. As part of our capacity building and social outreach, we will train civil society organisations, recent graduates, and postgraduate students on the basics of conducting field research in culturally diverse settings.


Expected outcomes
Our project will contribute to resilience in justice institutions and rural communities by creating awareness about the role played by the foundational values of indigenous laws in people’s observance of cultural practices. By illuminating the role of values in the social settings in which indigenous laws emerged, we will broaden understandings of why and how normative change occurs in South Africa.

CLIA Members Appointed to SALRC Committe

Associate Professor Anthony Diala, founding director of the University of the Western Cape’s Centre for Legal Integration in Africa (CLIA), and Professor Lea Mwambene, a CLIA board member, have been appointed as members of the Advisory Committee on Matrimonial Property (Project 100E) of the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC). The appointees, who are usually experts in their fields of law, are selected for their experience, independence, and commitment to social justice.
The committee is currently reviewing the Matrimonial Property Act of 1984 with the intention of bringing this nearly 40-year-old law up to date with recent developments affecting the property relations of spouses, intimate partners, and family members. These include polyandry, polygyny, equality laws, same sex unions, community of property, and recognition of Muslim marriages. While the Committee focuses on family problems brought to the SALRC’s attention, its work also includes social and legal changes that require marriage statutes to meet current social realities.
Professors Diala and Mwambene, together with three other members, are assisting the SALRC to review statutes related to matrimonial property, solicit public input on matrimonial issues, and recommend changes to ensure that the Matrimonial Property Act meets contemporary social needs. Both academics bring their in-depth expertise in customary family laws, human rights, and legal pluralism to the Committee.
The appointments are in terms of section 7A of the South African Law Reform Commission Act 19 of 1973. Under this section, the SALRC may establish a committee consisting of members of the SALRC and experts appointed by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services.
During the apartheid era, many black South Africans suffered serious rights deprivations. While deprivations of civil and political rights enjoyed media spotlight, deprivations of rights in the private sphere flew under the radar.
Following the commencement of democratic governance, numerous law reforms were instituted to ensure equitable application of the law to all South Africans, irrespective of their race and social status. The SALRC was revamped and tasked with this important function.
However, despite the extensive and often-celebrated work of the SALRC, matrimonial property law reforms have not received significant attention. The Advisory Committee on the Review of Aspects of Matrimonial Property Law seeks to change this.
Reacting to their appointment, Professors Diala and Mwambene expressed their delight at the recognition of their expertise and affirmed their commitment to strengthening the regime of matrimonial property in South Africa to ensure that it is aligned to the rapid pace of socioeconomic changes.

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