Southern African perspectives on banning corporal punishment – a comparison of Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe
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This chapter reviews recent judicial and legislative developments concerning steps towards – and against – the abolition of corporal punishment in four closely connected southern African jurisdictions: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Not only are these countries neighbours, they share a common legal heritage as recipients of a blend of Roman Dutch law and English law and, in the case of Namibia, the country was, until independence in 1990, a protectorate of South Africa with laws and institutions in common. Hence, all countries under discussion inherited from English law the “reasonable chastisement” defence available to parents utilising physical force against their children. In short, this meant that charges of assault could be countered with the common law defence that the parent was merely exercising legitimate parental authority. Although the scope of the application of the defence did narrow to exclude the most egregious forms of abuse in recent decades, in the face of mounting evidence of child abuse and changing social norms, it remained intact. This was the case even in the face of developing legislative measures to counter child abuse in various welfare and protection statutes in all of the four countries at defined points in the 20th century.