Just because it is a system, and it has existed and been applied for centuries, does not mean it should not be taken on, and even taken down

-Sheena Jonker



I blog in peace. Since my return from our program in Johannesburg last week, I have not touched sides. 1 March we move offices and will be beefing up our administrative infrastructure, so much is going on and we are certainly upping our ante in our contention for peace and justice for all, and for justice to look more reconciliatory and restorative than it does now.


Our view is this: to justify or to make just or to do justice has to do with restoring the template, setting things right, returning people to something of the position they would have occupied had the act of injustice not taken place.


Let’s have a look at a case in point based on an actual case I am dealing with but let’s reconstruct it fictitiously just to check it out:


2010 a contractor is awarded a tender to build 1000 low cost houses. In turn he hires a sub-contractor to build the first phase of 160 units. The sub-contractor secures credit lines with suppliers and hires a team of 100 labourers to start the mandate which includes displacing 150 families (with an average of 3 members per family) to tented camps. The families are told that this temporary arrangement will endure for 8 weeks. According to the development plan, the subcontractor submits his first invoice totalling R 7,9 million. The contractor also submits his invoice to the client. Out of the contractors first invoice, over R 6 million is due, owing and payable to suppliers and labourers. The client fails to pay the contractor. Payment is delayed for over two years on the basis that the client is auditing the process in terms of which the tender was awarded.


In the meantime the subcontractor who has been in business for over twenty years, and has enjoyed much favour on the back of a good reputation, has to retrench over 100 labourers, and has to ward of law suits from suppliers threatening to liquidate him. If one unpacked things further, one would uncover a domino effect of suppliers in turn having to ward off insolvency suits. 100 labourers out of jobs? That effects how many people? Exactly. Not to mention the number of businesses that have faced closure as a result of the financial strain rippling outward.


So what happens? The suppliers sue the subcontractor, the subcontractor sues the contractor, who in turn sues the client. The client is auditing the process and so things can be delayed ad infinitem. This kind of court action could last anywhere from 3 to 10 years.


In the meantime, over 150 families with a hope of actual housing have their hope deferred for over two years and continue to live, scattered over a 20km radius in informal housing, without access to running water or electricity, exposed to disease, the elements and to crime.


So what is the alternative? We initiate a dialogue with the client. We honour their investigations into impropriety and corruption, but we say, let’s apply reason. Let’s look at value created and where it has come from. Let’s pay those who have created value and restore the families to some semblance of dignity. Let’s talk this through. The way things are is not the way things have to be. Let’s do this thing together.


We are imbued with the creative genius of the most High. Let’s look at how we do justice. The competitive way of doing justice does not work. Justice is about restoring everyone to the position they would have held had the injustice not taken place. That is very difficult to do if it is competitive and adversarial. Reconciliatory practices like mediation are the best spaces to maximize truth and accountability. As a society we need to do this. We need to own this.


I totally see something better, and it is going to happen. Keep following for the outcome on this specific case and others.


To be a part of our journey, leave a comment below or send an email to adr@mediatorsa.co.za


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Until next time, peace.