Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi
Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi

The real numbers: Justice not done until remedy, restoration, reintegration

By Opinion Time of article published Nov 1, 2020

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By Pali Lehohla

JOHANNESBURG - How do you know that a leper is free from leprosy and cannot infect you?

When the presiding doctor shakes the hand of the leper.

The quality of social life, its economic dimensions, political endeavours, legal and justice frameworks find expression in different ways.

Social media has opened up the space for discussions. It allows society to engage as interest groups.

I belong to a number of social media groups and another, which is family.

In the family group we cover a broad range of topics of our lived experiences that often anchors and reverts to where we were born and bred, in Patisi, Lesotho.

My eldest brother Mahapela Lehohla is former chief justice of Lesotho.

It intrigues me he is still in touch with ex-prisoners. In the past 10 years he has consistently hosted them at least once a year.

He says his aim is to probe the immersion of judicial practitioners in the system of evidence seeking, remedial sanction, restoration of convicts and their reintegration in society as a necessary element not only of law and social justice but as sine qua non for restorative criminal justice system.

Mahapela says the discussions help to test whether the remedy given delivers appropriate restoration.

Such dialogue facilitates the prospect of societal comfort for restoration and reintegration of ex-convicts into themselves. Because the discussion also involves prison warders, it provides heightened knowledge on what the entire system is about and how it can be improved.

Mahapela always draws a distinction between punitive colonial laws on which modern Lesotho jurisprudence is built and the laws and restorative laws and practices of the founding father of the Basotho nation, King Moshoeshoe.

The colonial laws had no consideration for remedy and restoration and these included the introduction of capital punishment which still exists in Lesotho and many other countries.

Mentored by Mohlomi, a well travelled educator and medicine man, Moshoeshoe would grow up to be a judicious king, bringing peoples scattered by the Lifaqane into a nation.

The most remarkable signpost of his analytical mind and quality of mercy was to locate cannibalism in the scourge of Lifaqane. On their journey from Menkhoaneng to Thaba Bosiu, Moshoeshoe’s caravan was waylaid by cannibals who abducted and ate his grandfather Peete. Upon hearing this, Moshoeshoe’s warriors arrested and brought the cannibals to court, where everyone bayed for their blood.

Moshoeshoe however argued that the cannibals are the graves of his grandfather and by killing them he will be desecrating it. His judgement was for the cannibals to be given working instruments to raise crops, livestock and family and be reintegrated into society.

That one act ended cannibalism in Lesotho. What then is the important lesson of immersion of practitioners in the entire chain of the criminal justice system? It is that justice is not done until there is remedy, restoration and reintegration and the chief justice carries the obligation of leadership on this front.

Lehohla is the former statistician general of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa.

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