South Africa has a history of social injustice rooted in its apartheid past. Unlike numerous African countries on the continent, South Africa has become a success story – one that stands as a good example of healing. South Africa has provided positive reference for countries that are experiencing civil war and discrimination in one form or another. Democratic elections, the establishment of parliament and a progressive constitution ensure that communities of people in South Africa are treated with respect and that justice is served.
“Overall societal healing, however, is not an overnight occurrence. It is still taking place on macro and micro levels in South Africa. Undoubtedly, South Africa has come a long way in terms of its transformation, however divisions and wounds caused in communities by the former apartheid regime still require healing today,” says Creative Consulting & Development Works Researcher, Paul Dube. “Twenty years into democracy has seen the country undergo transitional justice processes such as the commissioning of a new constitutional dispensation and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Areas of economic and social restoration continue to be subjects of parliamentary debate.”
Enter the model of transitional justice for transformation. This is the focus of South Africa’s Institute of Justice and Reconciliation (IJR): A unique organisation that creates transformation in communities where it is needed and simultaneously, helps to influence policies at the government level. “Grassroots interventions are used to inform changes in policies, which have a direct impact on communities at large – and this is why IJR is quite unique in its approach,” says Creative Consulting & Development Works senior researcher, Elena Mancebo Masa. “Many of the organisations we work with have a model that either focus on influencing change at a policy level (dealing with key political entities such as parliaments, political leaders and other governance accountability infrastructures), or are aimed directly at the community on a grassroots level. The latter sees organisations working directly with communities to bring about transformation and restoration through interventions that aim to strengthen community cohesion. IJR does both.”
In order to implement transitional justice in other African countries, IJR trains in-country partner organisations on methods of community cohesion systems and processes. A member of IJR travels to the country to conduct training and support the in-country partners. In addition, IJR has a fellowship programme that hosts applicants from post-conflict regions working in transitional justice fieldwork in South Africa. The fellows are hosted in-house by IJR and undergo a three-week rigorous training programme that acquaints fellows with the processes undertaken in South Africa. The aim is to empower the fellows to return to their home countries and particularly their organisations – and make a strategic difference.
“IJR’s avenues of championing transitional justice in Africa have been recognised by foreign governments and changes resulting from the work of the Institute have been in areas of community cohesion, education, peace-keeping and social transformation in South Africa and post-conflict regions of Africa,” adds Elena. “Our research team had the opportunity to interview IJR’s in-country partners in Burundi, Kenya, Botswana, Uganda and South Sudan and obtained insight on their relationship with IJR, how the Institute assisted them and explored successes and challenges faced.
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