Source: (2002) British Journal of Criminology 42:496-513

The South African Cabinet has recently given approval for the introduction into Parliament of a Bill that will provide a new system to deal with child offenders. This article suggests that the context of political transition in South Africa made it easier to promote restorative justice as a fundamental principle of juvenile justice reform. The theme of reconciliation that characterized the transition is linked to the African philosophy of humanity and community, 'ubuntu'. The acceptance of 'a different kind of justice', familiar from African traditional justice, community courts and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission provided fertile ground for debates about the modern international trend towards restorative justice approaches, and this has had a notable impact on juvenile justice reform. The article moves on to describe selected aspects of the Child Justice Bill, examining the extent to which these clauses reflect a restorative justice approach. Finally there is a discussion about some of the challenges to promoting restorative justice in an environment of public concern about crime.