Charting progress, mapping the future: Restorative justice in South Africa

This publication is based on a project that sought to document current projects implementing restorative justice in South Africa. As is the case in many other countries, a number of significant attempts have been made in this regard since the early 1990s. But what concrete progress has been made? Who is delivering direct restorative justice services to victims and offenders? What are the scope and quality of these services?


What are the issues faced by these service providers? And how can the experiences of other countries help us respond to these and other similar, frequently-raised questions? These were the kinds of questions that the authors set out to try and answer in carrying out this project.


Chapter Two outlines the way in which the authors understand restorative justice and approached it in this study, while Chapter Three places it within a historical context in South Africa. The authors have aligned themselves with the view that restorative justice is a philosophy, or an approach, rather than a specific programme.

The bulk of the text is found in Chapter Four, which contains a report from all of the more than sixty projects that were identified as relevant to the study. The reports are presented provincially, with a provincial summary at the end of each province’s reports.

Chapter Five presents some conclusions drawn from these reports, which are organised according to the various sectors surveyed, namely, probation services, correctional services, civil society (at the pre-trial, pre-sentence and post- sentence levels), traditional leaders, victim support services, child care work, and family law. It is concluded that there are some pockets of good activity, but that these fall far short of addressing the actual need. Furthermore, efforts are seriously hampered by the fact that there are no proper arrangements for funding these services.

The authors seek to place these conclusions within two current international debates judged as critical to the context in South Africa, those of practice standards and the respective roles of government and civil society. They end with some recommendations aimed at mainstreaming restorative justice.

About the authors:

Ann Skelton is a human rights lawyer who for many years has been in the forefront of attempts to bring about changes in the criminal justice system for children in South Africa. In this role, she has consistently promoted restorative justice solutions. In 2005 she obtained an LLD degree, with her thesis The Influence of the Theory and Practice of Restorative Justice in South Africa, with Specific Reference to Child Justice. She is currently based at the Centre for Child Law, University of Pretoria.

Mike Batley is a social worker and former probation officer, who has been actively involved in restorative justice since 1996. He currently heads the Restorative Justice Centre in Pretoria, a non-profit organisation committed to promoting restorative justice within both the criminal justice system and the wider community. Mike aims to promote a sound understanding of restorative justice and to integrate this with social justice concerns in South Africa.

The research and publication of this book was made possible by the generous funding of the Royal Danish Embassy.


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