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Matters of customary law were heard by chiefs and headmen, with a right of appeal to the Native Appeal Court, staffed by magistrates.

Today, South Africa retains a plural legal system, with customary law remaining a legal system for those who wish to be subject to it.

has been the Law Librarian at the University of Cape Town Law Library since January 2001. (Hons.) degree in History from the University of Cape Town, and LL. is a senior reference librarian at the University of Cape Town Law Library. In 1806, English forces defeated the Dutch settlers and took the Cape of Good Hope as a British possession.

She has 12 years experience as a reference librarian, and previously headed the University’s African Studies Library. South African law reflects this history of successive colonial governance.

‘Grand apartheid’ divided the territory of South Africa into separate ‘states’, some of which (the Transkei, Boputhatswana, Venda and the Ciskei) were given ‘independence’ by the South African government.

In terms of South African law, the ‘citizens’ of such states lost their South African citizenship.

Of course, most South Africans are not of European extraction.

As a result of such factors, the Roman-Dutch law of the Cape Colony was overlaid with a heavy English law influence.According to this policy, indigenous people could rule themselves according to indigenous law in certain matters, for example rules of marriage and succession.The colonial state retained exclusive jurisdiction over matters such as serious crime.Residents of the TBVC states, as well as those of other ‘ethnic homelands’ were not permitted to remain in ‘white South Africa’ without permission, unless they qualified to do so in terms of Act 67 of 1952 or other statutory exemptions (the ‘pass laws’).As resistance to the apartheid regime intensified from the 1950’s onwards, the South African government implemented legislation giving the state wide powers to detain, arrest, imprison and ban its opponents.

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