New Years Day this year saw our beaches packed, as usual, with jubulent beach-goers. It also saw some South Africans taking to the social networks to vent deeply racist and hateful sentiment. Some of the posters were Penny Sparrow, apparently a former Estate Agent with Jawitz Properties, Justin Van Vuuren of FatTruckSA and Chris Hart, Senior Economist at Standard Bank.
Their actions have resulted in serious consequences. Penny Sparrow has been denounced by her former employer, has had threats levied at her and has been suspended from the DA. Justin Van Vuuren has lost his Future Life Sponsorship and Chris Hart has been suspended from Standard Bank. I understand that all three have had criminal charges laid against them.
And my response is: good
You may be surprised at this since I am a proponent of restorative justice. Well let’s take a look.
Punitive Justice asks:
What offence was committed?
Who committed the offence?
How should they be punished?
Restorative Justice asks:
What harm was done?
Who caused the harm?
Who suffered the harm?
How can we make things right?
One of the features of a restorative approach and the way I practice restorative justice is that unlike a punitive approach which often sees quick results that are unsustainable, a restorative approach emphasizes learning and growing through the process.
As a restorativist, sometimes it is a good thing to take a step back and allow those who offend to experience the natural consequences of their harmful behaviour. In this case the action of the three has lead to being made to feel unsafe in this world through threat of actual harm as well as threat of legal action as well as action that could very well expose them to economic detriment.
Am I happy that they have been made to feel unsafe. No, it’s not as simple as that. I could never say I am happy about any of this. But it is good that they are living the real consequences of their deeply hateful and harmful sentiments which were publically vented.
For too long restorative justice practitioners have light-weightedly regarded issues of race, gender and distribution of social power leading to the mindset that anything can be mediated. No, often other action is required before matters are ready for dialogue and often that action takes the form of natural consequences or action taken by a righteously angry citizenry.
It’s a good time for South Africans everywhere to watch and awaken to the fact that the type of thinking that the three expressed publically is every bit as harmful to all of us as a society as is violent crime. In fact this type of thinking which is the actual entitlement thinking, and has been for 400 years of Western entitlement ideology is what has landed our Country up as a deeply divided society and this makes violent crime and instability not justified so much as inevitable. And we need to be very honest with ourselves right now.
Does the action of the three exclude restoration? Absolutely not. In fact it may well catalyse a season of restoration if we are willing to be tough on ourselves and honest about the real problems. And one of the things we need to ditch is the argument on reverse racism. It lacks substance. Racism, properly understood is a system of advantage of one race over another. Transformation policies can never be regarded as reverse racism. They must, for all our sakes, be regarded as aspects of redress and reparative justice.
It’s important to know that a significant aspect of the restorative approach is insight into the harm we have caused or the harmfulness of our thinking and actions. Penny Sparrow at least seems to completely lack this insight. Cornel West states that the unexamined life is not worth living.
It’s time to take a good look around and look at how our brothers and sisters are living and its time for all of us to take transformation seriously. Constitutional expert, Prof Devenish once said: “we ignore land transformation at (ALL) of our own peril.”
Restorativism is about liberating both oppressors and the oppressed and Penny Sparrow, Chris hart and Justin Van Vuuren, your vile public spewing of hatred and the devaluing of our brothers and sisters might just have catalysed enough righteous anger for us to finish what the TRC was meant to have started: the actual reparation that is intrinsic to restoration.
Let’s starting talking about what that might look like.
As always, Peace
Sheena St. Clair Jonker
Per: THE ACCESS TO JUSTICE ASSOCIATION OF SA and ADR NETWORK SA
Mediation Training: firstname.lastname@example.org
Access to Justice: email@example.com