Prof Christa Rautenbach, B Iuris (cum laude) LLB (cum laude) LLM LLD is a Professor of Law in the Faculty of Law of North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.

Christa Rautenbach has more than 30 years of experience as a legal scientist. She was a prosecutor in the employ of the Department of Justice before she became an academic scholar at the faculty of law, North-West University (Potchefstroom) where she is a Full Professor. She holds a number of positions including honorary treasurer of the Society of Law Teachers of Southern Africa, Ambassador Scientist of the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, and chairperson of the North-Eastern Chapter of the Alexander von Humboldt-Association of South Africa. In addition, she is the secretary of Juris Diversitas, “an international, interdisciplinary community for the study of legal and normative mixtures and movements” (

She has published extensively on subjects dealing with legal pluralism, customary law, mixed jurisdictions, cultural diversity, judicial comparativism and the law of succession, and also presented numerous papers on these subjects globally. She is co-editor and co-author of two leading books on South African law: Introduction to Legal Pluralism in South Africa (LexisNexis) and The Law of Succession in South Africa (OUP).

She is the editor-in-chief of the peer reviewed, open-access electronic law journal, the Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal ( She serves on the editorial and/or advisory boards of the Journal for Contemporary Roman-Dutch Law (South Africa), the Journal of Comparative Law in Africa (South Africa) , the Journal of Civil Law Studies (Louisiana) , the African-German Network of Excellence in Science (AGNES): Southern Africa region and the Journal of International and Comparative Law.


In this article, Professor Christa Rautenbach explores the plausible links between three seemingly disparate concepts which often come to the fore in legal literature, especially in the context of achieving justice. They are ubuntu (an African equity concept), restorative justice (a Western theory of justice) and therapeutic jurisprudence (an American approach to justice).

In contrast to the punitive character of a conventional justice system that focuses retaliation, ubuntu, restorative justice and therapeutic jurisprudence call for a more holistic approach that promotes reconciliation of everyone caught up in the justice system.

All three concepts have one thing in common—the well-being of all individuals and communities touched by injustice in some form or other. They focus on reconciliation and restoration instead of retaliation and punishment.

This article examines the (un)intentional parallels between ubuntu, restorative justice and therapeutic jurisprudence in the context of the Traditional Courts Bill, which is currently being debated in Parliament, are remarkable. The Bill confirms the important role of traditional courts in the justice system and recognises a move towards the “values of the traditional court system, based on restorative justice and reconciliation”.

The article sets out the historical development of traditional courts, examines the role of traditional courts today as the backdrop to an evaluation of the Traditional Courts Bill, and predicts what enhanced role the traditional courts will have to play in the future.