For rural South Africans, the most feasible access to justice lies in traditional mechanisms. These mechanisms are associated with restorative justice, reconciliation, and harmony. Yet historical conditions and contemporary pressures have strained these mechanisms’ ability to deliver these high ideals. Sharing research from her new book, NH resident and UMass/Boston Assistant Professor Sindiso Mnisi Weeks explores how human insecurity, low cooperation between traditional and state authorities, and profoundly gendered social relations and distrust create an environment in which violence is a predictable strategy for managing disputes. Prof. Mnisi Weeks also proposes a cooperative governance model that would increase the capacity of traditional an state mechanisms to deliver legal and social justice — and the peace and relief from violence, poverty, and destitution that rural people truly need.
Sindiso Mnisi Weeks is an Assistant Professor at UMass/Boston and the author of the book, Access to Justice and Human Security: Cultural Contradictions in Rural South Africa. She has published in academic and popular media on customary law, women’s rights, cultural rights, governance. Her current work focuses on the pursuit of justice and human security in indigenous courts by poor women and men living in rural South Africa. She has served as a senior researcher in the Centre for Law and Society at the University of Cape Town. There, she worked on the Rural Women’s Action-Research program, which combines research, advocacy, and policy work on women, property, and governing authority under customary law. In 2013-14 she was a resident scholar at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, where she held a fellowship for the completion of a book.
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