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Some media reports on President Jacob Zuma's opening address to the National House of Traditional Leaders on the Traditional Courts Bill are “grossly misleading”, the presidency said on Friday.
“(They) indicate that the president has wholeheartedly supported the bill, and has deliberately left out his acknowledgements of (its) shortcomings... which have to be addressed,” Zuma spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.
Zuma spoke to traditional leaders in Parliament on Thursday.
“Media reports on President Zuma’s speech... (have) been sensationalised by some newspapers to the point of being grossly misleading,” Maharaj said.
Earlier on Friday, The Times reported that Zuma, in his address, had told traditional leaders that Africans had their own way of solving their problems through traditional institutions.
“Let us solve African problems the African way, not the white man's way,” it quoted Zuma as saying.
“Let us not be influenced by other cultures and try to think the lawyers are going to help us. We have never changed facts. They tell you they are going to change facts. They will never tell you that these cold facts have warm bodies.”
The newspaper reported that Zuma's comments could be viewed as an endorsement of the Traditional Courts Bill, which is currently under consideration in Parliament.
In his statement, Maharaj quoted extracts from the speech, in which Zuma acknowledged the bill “has been criticised for being flawed for a number of reasons”.
Further, Zuma had said that all the concerns raised were being addressed as part of an on-going parliamentary process.
Maharaj said the bill clearly needed further work, and everybody had acknowledged that fact.
“It is unfortunate that the information was excluded from reports in order to convey a particular view and stereotype.
“In the interest of fairness, we believe that the affected media should carry the adequate and proper correction,” he said.
The bill was first submitted in 2008. Its opponents say it empowers chiefs to act as judge, prosecutor, and mediator, with no legal representation and no appeals allowed.
The Times reported that if enacted, it will affect about 19 million rural people who live on tribal lands ruled by chiefs. - Sapa