Tribal authorities use to play a huge roll in the black communities of the olden days. These were the days when police and court were reserved for people who lived in town. In these times the tribal authorities used to act as the police stations, court and social services to their communities’ even taxes were once paid to these tribal authorities.
The head of the tribal authority is called a ‘Kgoshi’, which means chief or king in Tswana. The tribe has a ‘royal’ family around the kgoshi and headmen appointed by the tribal authority to execute rules in the community.
These tribal authorities had their own police, juries and judges. The term jungle-justice derived from the days when the king (zulu) had the power over life and death.
Communities depended on tribal authorities, mostly farming rights, law and order. Tribal authorities had to re-invent themselves after the birth of the new South Africa. The availability of police stations, social services and courts have become popular in the rural communities.
George have been appointed as an attorney by various tribal authorities in the Limpopo region and he realized from the outset that any attorney acting for a tribal authority should have a good understanding of their tradition, culture and belief.
Most African people believe in the supernatural, ancestors and the powers of the dead (forefathers). The elements in nature are used to confirm a sign from a super power such as god in the sky, evil sign of lightning, pointing out the evil person (moloi) and the sign of rain as a blessing.
Those people who are pointed to be evil suffer a gruesome death. These persons are chased into a so-called evil-house by the community, set on fire and they burn to death. The scary part of criminal defence begins when the attorney is instructed to defend the accused who set the house alight and those who kept the ‘évil’ ones inside with sticks and stones to burn to death.
In African tradition we find the traditional healers, who have expert knowledge of all the plants in Africa, the medicine created by those plants and the effect thereof. These are real powerfull remedies for any kind of sickness, specially found in the roots of these plants.
The problem, however, we also find those ‘doctors’ who will use the effect of these plants to become powerfull destroyers of people’s so-called enemies. An African who is troubled by another African will consult the sangoma, dressed in leopard-skin, throwing his bones and he is usually provided with some deadly medicine (muti).
Some so-called medicine is made from animal parts like the brains of the crocodile, which is deadly even in modern time because this type of muti is hard to detect by professional doctors, cause of death may not be determined.
The most scary side of this type of medicine is the potions created by the death of a human being. It can be any part of the body, usually children or women, who are murdered for the so-called power in their body-parts such as good fortune or cure for hiv or cancer.
In 1990’s George was instructed on the defense of 4 men who murdered a medical student in her final year of studies. This young lady was killed for her body parts, mostly her private parts, head and fingers.
A young boy was walking in the veld with his dog, the human remains of this young lady was found by chance when the dog started digging. In a nearby village another lady remembered a boyfriend who was looking for spade… the murderers were found and arrested with the sangoma who purchased these body parts.
The sangomas even sell a love potion to the African ladies to overpower their prospects in finding/keeping husbands by giving them korobela (muti in food). These guys are dangerous, have a so-called medicine for each and every problem, specially in our modern society.
In African tradition, leaders or healers, are well respected. We have to be reminded that African people lived for centuries without democracy and modern influences. Madiba (Nelson Mandela) was also a young boy in an African village, raised in terms of African tradition, today the roll-model for most South Africans.
The challenge to all the different groups in the new South Africa is to create a tradition that will be proudly South African acceptable to all groups.