Restorative Justice, State Capture and Corruption

Are we having the right conversation? Are we thinking about this in the right way? Remedial work requires right thinking, right seeing, right speaking and right action.

In mediating conflict I often find myself saying to parties ‘are you seeing this in the right way?’, ‘are you thinking this through well?’.

Right seeing and right thinking are crucial precursors to the work of making things right again. Making things right again is the real work of justice. That’s how we get to just circumstances. And this is all best borne out of a discourse, a conversation where, as far as is possible, everyone is at the table and everyone has the resource and power to be at the table.

So where do we start? At the beginning. Naturally. That is the essence of ‘start’. And whilst the conversation is ‘look at the evil over there!’, ‘look at the corruption over there!’, we’ve skipped a whole lot of steps. The first step is with me. Always. How am I evil, how am I corrupt? In what ways do I apprehend my needs at the expense of others? How much permission do I give myself to be cruel?

Anyone been to a South African braai lately? Er, I mean in the last five months. Anyone heard about the cash we keep in our glove compartments to get through roadblocks? We do know that the rule against drunken driving is so we don’t injure, maime or kill people. Right?

How much latitude do we give ourselves in this stuff?

How many conversations do we have in which we know someone who knows a guy? How much latitude do we allow ourselves in queue jumping, process circumvention?

Every small act of corruption we partake in adds the exact energy required for the corruption that results in state capture. And by the way, I personally regard the bribing of police officers to overlook drunken driving one of the most harmful, if not the most harmful of all. And it’s commonplace. Let’s partake in courageous truth-telling.

Does this mean we don’t hold our leaders to account? Of course not, but if we don’t connect the corrupt and evil recesses of our own hearts to our societal ills, we will never heal.

We love seeing the next official’s face in the media. Fuelled by ancient bloodlust and revenge which we mistake for justice, we love becoming enraged. We love demanding convictions and jail time not having the faintest idea how criminal justice works and how technically difficult the evidence is in these matters. We will never get what we want there and we will certainly not find what we need. Healing. For us all.

We need to do better and our heightened accuser consciousness (the evil is over there, it’s him, it’s her, it’s them) is not serving us. It is keeping us in our weakest possible state. As we connect each of ourselves to this, we need to see the private sector corruption and the other forms of corruption that know no demographic and that continue to disable us yet proceed hidden in plain sight.

Let’s think about this better. Let’s see the whole and confront our own parts in the whole. That’s the restorative way. Real truth, real accountability and real remedy.

By Sheena St Clair Jonker