DCS and the University of South Africa (Unisa) held a Restorative Justice Colloquium at Unisa on 03 September 2018. It aimed to share best practices, find ways to professionalise the restorative justice programme and contribute to the development of a restorative justice curriculum. The session also focussed on restorative justice interventions and current practices.
Giving the welcoming remarks, Unisa Vice-Principal Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa said the colloquium was one of the elements through which effect can be given to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the university and DCS. “We are hopeful that we shall have these conversations and reflect on how we can pool resources to address social ills and bring about restorative justice in our country,” she said.
Minister Michael Masutha said that since his appointment in 2014, he sought to bring victims of crime to the centre of the criminal justice system. He said he made it mandatory in all parole proceedings that an effort be made to locate victims of crime or their next-of-kin, and their opinions be sought before a decision is made whether or not to place an offender on parole. Despite challenges in locating victims and their next-of-kin, the minister is adamant that a concerted effort should always be made to ensure that affected parties participate in the Victim-Offender Dialogues (VOD). “We must make sure that when we release people, we smooth their integration back into their families and communities, but also that we ease the nerves of the victims to avoid causing secondary trauma as a result of the reintegration of ex-offenders,” he said.
Minister Masutha stirred a lively debate as he sought to champion a discourse to change the reference “victim” to “the offended”, arguing that the former keeps the offender in a position of power, and affirming the impression of a powerless person who remains permanently consigned to a subdued state as a result of having suffered harm. He argued that if we are to successfully change power relations in society, the language we use should help us achieve that.Buti Kulwane from the Department of Social Development said it applies a victim-centred approach which seeks to involve parties to a dispute in collectively identifying the harm, needs and obligations through accepting responsibility, making restitution and preventing recurrence. Representatives from various non-governmental organisations, including the Foundation for Victims of Crime and Khulisa were present and provided meaningful contributions.