Source: (2001) In Victim policies and criminal justice on the road to restorative justice: Essays in honour of Tony Peters, ed. E. Fattah and S. Parmentier, 225-237. With an introduction by E. Fattah and S. Parmentier. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press.

Dirk van Zyl Smit remarks that it is easy to analyze changes in criminal justice systems in relation to the impact of wider political developments, and South African is a prime example of this possibility. The social and political transformation in South Africa at the end of apartheid was hailed as a panacea for a range of social problems. However, crime in South Africa has persisted or even worsened as a problem. The danger is that the analysis of changes in the South African criminal justice system may be revised to emphasize what has not improved instead of what has improved, with the consequence of despair about the persistence of the problem and the adoption of newer and more problematic criminal justice strategies. In view of all of this, in 1997 van Zyl Smit undertook a careful analysis of the evolution of criminological ideas in South Africa from the transition up to 1997. He found that the transition to democracy generally resulted in a triumph for legal reformism and a radical criminology characterized by strong communitarian ideals, yet the gains of reformism and the new criminology were fragile in the complex and challenging context of the emerging South African society. Now, he concludes that the government has responded since 1997 with the harshest possible new criminal justice legislation that it can enact within constitutional terms, and that talk of community justice has resulted in only scattered legislative initiatives.