Sunday 7 August 2011

Restitution in South Africa

The following article has appeared on the website of The Restitution Foundation ( They would welcome any comments you might have.

Restitution in South Africa has many facets which could make valuable contributions to the building of the society for which we long to see.

From the perspective of our Constitution, restitution upholds the cherished values of freedom, equality and human dignity. It has the possibility of deepening social cohesion and enabling South Africans to redress past wrongs and move forward together.

As a person of faith, I believe restitution is quite simply, the ‘right thing to do.’

‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ is the biblical foundation for retributive justice which is often put forward in such discussions.

However, there is another perspective, namely, a restorative way. This way is held by at least seven of the world’s great religions. It is mostly referred to as the Golden Rule – that we are called to care for others as we would like to be cared for ourselves. It seems so simple and yet we experience it to be quite difficult at times. Indeed, the history of our country would be quite different if we had begun long ago to live by this rule. That is our past, with which we must amend and make peace- hence our need for restitution.

At a practical, restorative level, perhaps the State, in partnership with business, should enact symbolic repentance. The State should hand over state land for communal purposes and business should assist the recipients of this land in addressing current lack of skills, socio- economic disparities and joblessness.

Today holds a key for tomorrow, our future. Let us not repeat our past mistakes. Let us care for others as we would wish to be cared for ourselves.

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