By Sheena Jonker
How do we optimize restorative justice to aid land reform in South Africa Right now? Can we use King’s 6 principles of non-violence as an aid? It is clear that we live in an age where levels of evil are high. The isolationism and polarization with issues of race, gender and all kinds of othering at the centre that we see on the world stage is being mirrored here too. The work of restorative justice through processes like mediation and managed dialogue seeks to make things right again. King’s principles of non-violence may be of particular value to mediators, lawyers, activists and restorative justice practitioners doing work relating to land reform in South Africa.
David Van Wyk of Benchmarks Foundation writes that ‘The biggest expropriation of land without compensation in SA occurred between 1806 and 1914, the process was led by Britain and Consolidated by the Act of Union in 1910’. It must be borne in mind that this was aside from the forced removals of some 3,5 million people from where they lived and worked to designated townships commonly 30 kms away from places of work, hospitals and schools. The collateral damage of unemployment, disease and all manner of social ills directly related to lack of access to employment, healthcare and education can never be quantified and should never be underestimated. The spatial injustice of the past endures today with millions of South Africans still struggling for access to employment, access to education and access to healthcare, aside from shelter, water and electricity.
The land question is a painful one and unless we participate in it in a progressive, humane and diligent way, our society will continue along the trajectory of the un-justness of the past which is not sustainable for any of us.
For those of us who work as lawyers, mediators and/or activists, I believe that much courage is
required right now. Specifically moral courage. The kids in the USA campaigning for more regulation
in gun law in the wake of more mass shootings have resurrected King’s six principles of non-violence in what I think to be very practical ways.
I hope to spend some time in coming weeks unpacking each one as I think they relate to and/or
could be applied to our peculiar context. For now, here they are:
#1 NON-VIOLENCE is a way of life for courageous people
It is active non-violent resistance to evil. We can be active in resisting evil by speaking, writing and
interrupting. This may be via public speaking, teaching, protesting, running dialogues or by using the
instrumentality of the law to bring about interruption (interdicts interrupt), reparation (help victims
with personal damages actions) and restoration (offer your services in restorative justice problem
solving dialogue processes)
It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally. What are our daily disciplines in exercise, self-
improvement like reading, and mindfulness practices like praying and meditating. My family and I
have switched to a plant-based diet. My daughter and myself 100%. My son and husband still
partake in dairy but to a far lesser extent. Each of us have had our own reasons but for me, I don’t
want to be for the regulation of violence. I want to be for the elimination of violence. The personal
health benefits so far have been astounding. I can recommend resources on plant-based living if
anyone is interested. Mail me.
#2 NON-VIOLENCE SEEKS TO WIN FRIENDSHIP AND UNDERSTANDING
The end result of non-violence is redemption and reconciliation. That sounds a lot like our work in
restorative justice. We know that reconciliation is hardly possible without the presence of justice.
The work of justice is inextricably linked to the goal of reconciliation. Often because of the type of
injury reconciliation cannot and should not be a goal (such as in our work in child rape) but we never
lose sight of pursuing a justice that restores the victim and may ultimately also heal the offender.
The purpose of non-violence, King said, was to create a beloved community. We intend to do just that. More about this in weeks to come.
#3 NON-VIOLENCE SEEKS TO DEFEAT INJUSTICE NOT PEOPLE
Evildoers are recognized as victims too and not just evil people.
We do not fight flesh and blood…
#4 NON-VIOLENCE HOLDS THAT SUFFERING CAN EDUCATE AND TRANSFORM
Generally speaking, we become enlightened (or become more conscious, compassionate and wise) through suffering or through authentic joy (which I believe is only possible in real communion with the source of everything or the creator)
How can we use this in practical ways? Let’s talk.
#5 NON-VIOLENCE CHOOSES LOVE AND NOT HATE
As human right lawyer and author writes, ‘Everybody, always’
#6 NON-VIOLENCE BELIEVES THAT THE UNIVERSE IS ON THE SIDE OF JUSTICE
We commit to doing our work sincerely believing that the whole universe is conspiring to bring about justice, to make all things right again.
What does that mean for us? Everyday. In small ways and in big ways. How does that look? Let’s talk