African judges wearing wigs a symbol of British colonialism? Julius Malema thinks so
The wigs and robes worn by judges and lawyers in former British colonies are among the most glaring symbols of colonial inheritance; an inheritance so old-fashioned and uncomfortable that even British barristers have stopped wearing them.
Remnants of colonialism are evident throughout the continent – in the names of places, cultural appropriation and the languages used for official purpose. It is bad enough that Africans had to endure the plunder of their homelands but why do we seem to vehemently hold on to relics of colonisation that no longer serve us?
The furnishings of the judiciary in former British colonies border on the ridiculous. The wigs and heavy robes only made their first appearance in the courtroom because they were the fashion at the time and remained as a staple when Charles II (1660-1685) made wigs essential wear for polite society. Not only are they quite literally old-fashioned but they are not made for the African climate or African sensibilities, nor do they reference any African traditions.
Despite efforts to do away with the garb, some countries still maintain it, to the chagrin and confusion of many, including the outspoken South African Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
He recently called out Zimbabwe and Kenya in an EFF media briefing, saying, “I was very worried with those judges in Zimbabwe… What do these things represent? What symbol is that? Does it mean you can only think when you are wearing a wig that looks like the hair of white people? The reason you think properly is because you are wearing white wigs, according to colonialism? And then revolutionaries like Zanu-PF allow that to continue in Zimbabwe; they allow that to continue in Kenya…”
He went on to point out what he considered to be the only way to be free of these remnants: “Pulling out of the Commonwealth is one of the things we need to do, to realise complete sovereignty. Those who come after us should know what we stood for; that we were anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and therefore we reject anything from colonialism and imperialism.”