Customary Law Courts Restructured Once Again: Chiefs and Headmen Regain Their Judicial Functions
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After the attainment of independence on 18 April, 1980 the colonial judicial administration of Headmen, Chiefs and Native Commissioners which had been primarily responsible for the administration of customary law during the colonial period was abolished and in its place a new court system of primary courts, made up of village courts and community courts, was established. By the time of independence the chiefs and native commissioners’ courts had been brought to a virtual standstill by the liberation struggle which had identified these courts as targets. Even though the chiefs' and native commissioner’s courts formally existed, they had in practice been rendered obsolete by the forces of the liberation struggle. Chiefs and native commissioners had been vilified and ridiculed as organs of colonial administration and policy. Before independence they had not only been physically rendered non-functional but they had also been totally discredited. Accordingly, it was unthinkable at that time that the new "revolutionary" government would restore the judicial role of chiefs and native commissioners. New, more progressive courts had to be created. These came in the form of the primary courts created by the Customary Law and Primary Courts Act. \’o 6 of 1981.