The just transition agenda aims at ensuring that vulnerable stakeholders are not negatively impacted by the transition, but are better off through it. Three key principles underpin the just transition agenda in South Africa. Distributive justice aims to address the direct impacts of the transition, such as the loss of employment and livelihood. Restorative justice considers the imposed costs of historical circumstances, with the goal of rectifying or ameliorating the circumstances of harmed or disenfranchised communities. Procedural justice focuses on the process and the extent to which inclusivity is a feature of it. It embodies the very idea of democratic governance and is based on a key underlying assumption: a just outcome can only emerge out of an inclusive process. It focuses on facilitating an inclusive decision-making and implementation process, with particular attention on enabling and empowering vulnerable and oft-neglected stakeholders to participate. This justice principle is often lacking in decision-making processes, and where it does appear, it tends to be insufficient or misaligned.
This paper aims to formulae concrete steps towards enhancing true, concerted participatory justice. It is the product of a collaborative initiative. Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS), with the National Labour and Economic Development Institute (NALEDI), in collaboration with Peta Wolpe, and supported by groundWork, worked together on fostering a just transition in South Africa’s coalfields, with a focus on eMalahleni and Steve Tshwete. This was funded by the United Kingdom Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions (UK PACT).