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Building a forward: Looking agenda for transitional justice in South Africa

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Author(s): van der Merwe Hugo

Journal: Temida
ISSN 1450-6637

Volume: 8;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 33;
Date: 2005;
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ABSTRACT
A more holistic restorative justice process provides an avenue to untangle the web of political, personal and social dynamics that deal with past and future sources of violent conflict. While much of the restorative justice literature is focused on individual healing and personal responsibility, the challenge we face in South Africa is to deal with past human rights abuses in a social context that also recognizes their present relevance. As we look at rebuilding society, we face new challenges in relation to social violence. These challenges (be they political divisions, criminal violence, gender violence) have their roots in the way that our society has created social identities in the past, the tools we have developed for dealing with violence and the unresolved memories of trauma, exclusion and mistrust we inherit from that past. Sometimes this specter of the past subtly shapes our sense of who we are and what our options are, but all too often it also directly intrudes through drawing on old enmities, repeating old but re-legitimated patterns of violence. Building a new society requires transitional justice processes that don’t simply pigeonhole pre- and post-transition conflicts in neat packages to be set aside or adjudicated. The continuities of conflict and violence require an approach that engages with the causes as well as the complex manifestations of our history of social dislocation and disruption.
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