The Traditional Courts Bill will not be withdrawn, even though most provinces have rejecting the proposed law.
The National Council of Provinces (NCOP), through its select committee on security and constitutional development, referred the controversial bill back to provincial legislatures on Tuesday for clarity on exactly which provinces supported or rejected the measure.
So far, the bill has been rejected by the Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, North West, and Limpopo provincial legislatures.
"We would want to have a clear, clear mandate. We don't want a mandate that makes us to be suspicious of whether you are for or against," acting chairman Matome Mokgobi said after Tuesday's committee meeting.
The Free State and Northern Cape were in favour of the bill, while KwaZulu-Natal's position remained unclear.
Mpumalanga had asked for an extension to get a mandate on which way it would lean.
"We are reconsolidating the views... going to provinces. Provinces will re-give us the mandate," Mokgobi said.
Congress of the People MP Dennis Bloem said he was disappointed with Tuesday's developments.
Most provinces had voted against the bill, yet the NCOP had decided not to withdraw it.
"Everybody knows the bill must be withdrawn... people have expressed themselves against this bill," Bloem said.
Inkatha Freedom Party MP Prince Muntukaphiwana Zulu said he did not understand why his province was unclear about its position on the bill.
"All local houses in the province of KwaZulu-Natal... we support the bill," Zulu said.
He understood MPs' concerns that the bill could create a separate, second-class justice system for rural communities.
"Maybe our politicians are afraid of two systems in the country..., but you must remember the westernised system is a new system. Our system is an old traditional system," he said.
The bill was first introduced in 2008. Its opponents say it empowers chiefs to act as judge, prosecutor, and mediator, with no legal representation and no appeals allowed.
Legal experts and rural activists argue that the proposed law creates a separate, second-class justice system for rural communities, where women have fewer rights.
The University of Cape Town's Centre for Law and Society said there were both negative and positive aspects to Tuesday's developments.
"If they hadn't referred it back to the provinces, if they did what they're supposed to do and discussed the negotiating mandates, they would have had to reject the bill," said the centre's Aninka Claassens.
"To refer it back to the provinces is a very slimy way of avoiding the fact that the provinces have rejected this bill."
Claassens said the good news was that the bill was unlikely to be pushed through before next year's elections.
She praised legislatures which stuck to their guns in rejecting the bill.
"They've stuck to that position despite a lot of pressure put on them, and so while you see democracy undermined by the actions of the NCOP, you see democracy upheld at a provincial level."