Original Research

Land, group identities and competing justice values in South Africa: Reformed perspectives on embracive justice and permeable identity formation

Nico Vorster
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 53, No 1 | a2398 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v53i1.2398 | © 2019 Nico Vorster | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 August 2018 | Published: 31 January 2019

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Nico Vorster, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, South Africa

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This contribution argues that competing justice values are hindering progress in the land debate in South Africa. Two factors contribute to this state of affairs: Firstly, social justice is a multifaceted concept undergirded by a range of values. These values often stand in tension with each other, especially when it comes to intergenerational conflicts and transitional social contexts. Secondly, South African approaches to justice seem to be closely related to group identities, particular historical experiences and political interests. To address the impasse on land, we need to recalibrate our disposition to the hierarchy of justice values and the priority we assign to each value. Moreover, we need to address the relationship between justice dispositions and identities. The question posed is the following: Can reformed-theological resources add an extra ingredient to our understanding of social justice? What would be the implications of such a recalibration for our understanding of human identity? This article proposes the concept of embracing justice as orienting principle in resolving the land issue. Furthermore, it draws on reformed notions of self-denial and cross-bearing to advocate a permeable notion of identity that internalises and enacts the demands of embracive justice.


Justice; embrace; permeable identity; land; South Africa


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