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The African concept of ubuntu and Restorative Justice

Louw, Dirk J.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) In, Dennis Sullivan and Larry Tifft editors, “Handbook of Restorative Justice” A Global Perspective. London and New York: Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group pp.161-171

In short, the process of restorative justice involves the reaching of an agreement or consensus through dialogue and negotiation with a view to reintegrate a community violated by crime. In what follows, I shall argue that ‘consensus through dialogue’ is also indicative of the ubuntu approach to the restoration of community. That is, I shall use ‘consensus through dialogue’ as a point of departure (or, if you like, hermeneutical key or lens) for identifying connections or overlappings between restorative justice and ubuntu. More specifically, I aim to show how ubuntu both demonstrates and instructs us toward restorative justice, thereby, vindicating Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s claim that such justice is characteristic of traditional African jurisprudence in so far as its ‘central concern is not retribution or punishment but, in the spirit of ubuntu, the healing of breaches, the redressing of imbalances, the restoration of broken relationships. (excerpt)


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