The “white” segment of the church in South Africa (though very influential) was not prophetic or vocal in its rejection of the ills of colonialism and Apartheid. Some churches were even actively supportive of the non-democratic government’s policies to the point of providing a theological justification for Apartheid.
With the birth of democracy in South Africa most of the churches participated in the reconciliation process by making submissions to the TRC and undertook to participate in the reconstruction process of the country. The country had high expectations of the South African church as a lead catalyst for redress and restitution within the society (more than 70% of South Africans consider themselves as members of a church). The restitution response of the South African church was disappointing and very little has come from their undertakings at the TRC.
In February 2002 a small group of concerned people from diverse backgrounds started to meet to deliberate on the lack of leadership within the church and broader South African society in mobilising the country towards restitution. This group established the Restitution Foundation to act as a catalyst for restitution both within the church and South Africa.
The goal with the establishment of the Restitution Foundation is to advocate for restitution as a tool to achieve justice and healing in South Africa.
The Restitution Foundation discovered that there were very few examples (apart from the criminal justice system) of communities that had taken up the responsibility of restitution. During the past few years the Restitution Foundation has experimented with various models of initiating restitution processes and the learnings made from these initiatives were combined into the approach that has formed the basis of the Restitution Foundation’s work since June 2009.