Pretoria, 28 October 2002




The Restorative Justice Centre (RJC) is a registered Non-Profit Organization that is passionate about promoting the concept of restorative justice and demonstrating its application.  Our comments on the Bill have been divided into two categories dealing with:

  1. Restorative Justice principles
  2. Other restorative Justice programmes


 1. Restorative Justice principles


The RJC would like to commend the SA Law Commission for basing the Bill on restorative justice, and for the balanced and realistic way in which they have sought to give effect to it. We are convinced that the framework of restorative justice is eminently appropriate for dealing with young offenders. We have also been extremely encouraged by the range of other policy initiatives currently underway that draw strongly on restorative justice. The Probation Services Amendment Bill that was recently passed by Parliament was apparently the first piece of legislation to mention restorative justice. We hope that the Child Justice Bill be will be the second.

It would seem that there is some concern that restorative justice is a foreign concept, and that we may be guilty of trying to import something from other countries that is not appropriate for South Africa. We are convinced that nothing could be further from the truth. In the course of our work over the past several years we have heard directly from communities that the South African way of dealing with offending children has traditionally included mechanisms that encouraged them to take responsibility for their actions. This included outcomes such as an apology, restitution and reparation and on restoring relationships between offender and victim. Where a community was involved, meetings were held publicly so as to provide everyone with a sense of ownership in the process. This is still evident in the way traditional courts function and the principles they uphold. Offenders in most cases are not separated from their support system (family and close relatives), and they are held responsible by those closest to them.


These principles and some of the procedures and outcomes are closely linked with restorative justice. The principles of restorative justice are aimed at achieving the following objectives:

û        Promoting victim’s healing from effects of the crime

û        Engaging the offender to establish accountability and responsibility for the consequences of their actions

û        Developing an appreciation of the impact of the offence on the victim

û        Encouraging and facilitating the provision of appropriate forms of reparation by offenders to victims and the community

û        Seeking reconciliation between victim and offender where possible

û        Strives to integrate the victim and offender into the community.[1]


Restorative Justice is based on a simple concept that:

û        We are all connected – the basis of ubuntu

û        Crime is a violation of people and relationships

û        Violations create obligations

û        The central obligation is to put right the wrong.[2]


We are of the opinion that the diverse cultures of South Africa can relate to these principles and that the programmes that are based on restorative justice will

·      provide practical ways for meeting the needs of communities to be more directly involved with justice processes in an orderly and structured way

·      provide an avenue for promoting moral regeneration


2. Other Restorative Justice Programmes 


It is of great concern to us that the phrase “other restorative justice programmes” has been removed from the original version of the Bill. We see two dangers here: on the one hand, that practices could develop that are not in line with the above principles of restorative justice, and on the other, that by being too prescriptive we will exclude local expressions of the concept.

South Africa is still in its early years of implementing restorative justice programmes and has thus borrowed from other countries such as New Zealand, and Australia. There is a great need for South Africans to develop programmes that are uniquely South African. This will take some time and advocacy has to happen in communities to promote this. There are different roles that need to be filled by both the state and communities respectively if this is to be achieved.


Government has a key role in offering services, overseeing and safeguarding the process, seeing that the ‘public dimensions ‘ of crime are addressed. This requires a partnership between state and communities. Community service providers, such as NGO’s need to be given enough latitude to be able to design and develop programmes that will still fit within the restorative justice paradigm.


These programmes could be guided by a series of evaluative questions that address the following:


·        “Does it address harms and causes?

·        Is it victim-oriented?

·        Are offenders encouraged to take responsibility?

·        Are all three stakeholder groups involved?

·        Is there an opportunity for dialogue & participatory decision-making?

·        Is it respectful to all parties?”[3]


It is therefore recommended that the phrasing of the Bill not be restricted to Family Group Conferences and Victim Offender Mediation programmes only. It should include a phrase that is wide enough to allow other initiatives within the country, particularly rural areas that are within the restorative paradigm but exclusive enough to eliminate abuse.


I trust that the above-mentioned recommendation will be considered.


(Ms) Dudu Setlatjile

Restorative Justice Centre

[1] New Zealand Restorative Jstice Practice Manual, May 2000

[2] Howard Zehr, Little book of Restorative Justice, ( Good Books, November, 2002)


[3] Howard Zehr, Little book of Restorative Justice, ( Good Books, November, 2002)