Peacemaking, Influence and Swimming

 

Last week was exactly that-a week of Peacemaking, Influence and Swimming.

 

We were set to run one of our five day ADR Programs in Mediation and Arbitration inJohannesburglast week. We run these workshops with a minimum of ten trainees. The Friday before the Monday start, we had to “call it” on registrations after we hit twenty-two. My stepmom was due to do the catering and I was really starting to mess with her happy place each time I picked up the phone to change numbers.

 

Around 3pm that Friday I also happen to get a call from the Department of Justice Rules Board. Now the Rules Board is responsible for the Rules of the Lower Courts, the High Courts and the Supreme Court of Appeal. It is also responsible for drafting the Mediation Rules for Court-annexed mediation set to pilot some time in the future. The question they asked was when was our next Program, so I said Monday. The representative said of course that is too soon. In government you can’t even pick up a phone without much bureaucracy and permission-seeking. So I suggested that he send one or two representatives at our cost and as observers to our Program. As it turned out, permissions were sought and granted and he personally attended the Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

Now we have chosen to watch how the court-annexed mediation unfolds and have not gone knocking on the door of Justice. My personal view is that much statutory mediation I have witnessed in the past has a bent on case management, and is not primarily focused on access to justice and the life changing possibilities that live in mediation. And so the processes tend to be very quick and actually look more like legal advice than authentic mediation. Well I was blown away after conversations with this gentleman from justice. It turns out that access to justice is the ideal and I really discovered an authentic heart for this and he showed me that that heart is alive and well in our Department of Justice. I was profoundly honoured to have met him, have spent time with him and to have him on our Program. I will be writing more on Access to Justice soon.

 

We also had a very good friend of mine attend the last two days of the Program. More about him later, but he is a brother in Christ, a brilliant mind and also has a heart to raise up a generation of peacemakers that will profoundly effect the next generation.

 

He has also nominated me as a guest speaker to address a gathering of 80 top African Leaders (including two Presidents). The topic is Think or Swim. Now some of you know I have taken up swimming this year, having been a champion swimmer as a child, and that I aspire to swim in the next para-lympics. Now those of you who have attended our five day workshops this year will have heard about my swimming. I am learning a style of swimming called total immersion swimming and I have drawn parallels and found powerful life skills that can enhance leadership, entrepreneurship and peacemaking. I expand on this in my upcoming book, Bulletproof: Living with courage, intention and under and open heaven. Look out for the Chapter “Stalking the Swimmers”. My creative coach loves it! And you will too!

 

So my friend not only attended the last two days of our Program, but also accompanied me and my family to Sun City on the Saturday where I competed in theSun Cityopen water swim.

 

Anyway, back to the Program. We had an amazing mix of trainees. Three academics from two universities, seasoned lawyers, the mentioned representatives from the Department of Justice, five Members of Grain SA, someone in education, someone who is part of a company that has consulted on the Marikana conflict, individuals engaged in Industrial Relations, a Quantity Surveyor, an employee of the Thai High Embassy, an ex-banker who has become a great friend and advisor, a business broker and so on. We really were in the presence of brilliant minds and authentic hearts with ideals in peacemaking.

 

My great friends and Colleagues Adam and Hilton were there for the first two days. On the first two days of the Program, we teach the Culture of Honour and concentrate on communication and rapport building. On the Monday morning I had to duck out to meet Mandela’s PA, Zelda Le Grange. Now I would not normally leave the Program for anything, but we had really battled to synchronize our diaries and so I was grateful that my colleagues and our amazing trainees were happy to release me for a short while. Zelda is one of the Influencers we are profiling as part of our Influence Project which is an artistic journey to discover what Influence is. We are partnering with fine art photographer Andrew McGibbon on this. It has been amazing, we have profiled about 140 Influencers to date…some high profile and some with no public profile such as Gogos that look after orphan’s. Our discoveries on Influence will become a part of our program. We believe there is much to learn. Have a look at who we have profiled so far at www.the-influence-project.com. We are hoping still to profile the likes of George Bizos, Albi Sachs and Desmond Tutu.

 

One of my highest values, as many of you know, is to create a space for people to tell their stories. This is essentially the power of the mediation process, people get to tell their stories in a safe place. A master mediator facilitates that. It is when individuals are heard, and get each other (not necessarily agree) that healing, forgiveness and collaboration can take place.

 

On the last day we got everyone in a circle for an ideas sharing hour. Each trainee had five minutes to share an idea for the benefit of the group. This is a broader initiative of this friend of ours whom I am hoping to get permission to profile soon. Anyway the ideas sharing morphed into storytelling and everyone suddenly “got” the power of the story. One of the gents shared his experience of growing up as one of 6 boys in apartheidSouth Africa. He says he got more lap time with his Dad than his brothers. His father would tell him, “Sonny, you are going to be a lawyer” He went on to graduate from Harvard, spent time in the White House (yes they knew he was there!) and then became the first black academic at Wits. Another trainee and chief of the Hlube Tribe told of being borne into Royalty, becoming the first black medical rep and then becoming a Traditional Leader and Academic. Both have similar stories of their parent’s love and backing.

 

Another told a heart wrenching story of being involved in a head on collision on the highway only to get out and find the other driver had been  killed…and that it was his wife. I hearing that was a life-changing moment for everyone in the group.

 

Everyone “got” the power of story that morning.

 

These five day programs are tiring for me. The ideal is close to my heart and so I tend to really give everything I have got over the five days. I will be transitioning more to conferencing and public speaking around peacemaking in the future, and our Programs will be run by highly skilled trainers. I will still attend each Program to introduce it and then help with assessments at the end.

 

But travelling home that afternoon with our Administrator and our friend, I set up some ground rules: Don’t talk to me, don’t look at me, don’t ask questions. I was just exhausted and trying to focus for Saturday’s swim. I however was free to randomly tell tax jokes as our friend has an LLM in tax and has been engaged in taxation most of his life.

 

So we headed out to our family house at Harties in preparation for the swim. My 12 year old niece, my baby brother and myself were due to swim at different times.

 

It was tough getting up at 5am and getting the whole household up. My niece was due to swim at 9.30am, my brother at 11.30am and me at 12.30pm. So I was in the “I am swimming at 12.30pm zone.” But we got toSun Cityand were told I am swimming at 9.30am, so I had to switch gears at 9am to get back in the 9.30am zone. Not that easy. Only to be told at 9.28 that I am actually swimming at 12.30pm, at which point I had no choice but to demonstrate some smooth karate moves on the organizers!

 

My friend journaling the swim took his mandate seriously and never stopped photographing me. I felt like a celebrity and I think people actually starting asking: “Who is she!” When my brother pulled out a golf umbrella to give me shade while walking I was like totally: “Stop it now! I am starting to feel like Michael Jackson!!!”

 

So I swam the 12.30pm race and I came third in the disabled female age 31 plus. I only got my results two days ago and I was like “Boom!”. My niece came seventh and my brother came 158th but obviously his was a much bigger race. It was an amazing experience. I had my niece, my four brothers and two special friends, one our administrator and the other, the photographer and one of SA’s top tax experts. Obviously I am going to make up tax jokes all weekend!

 

My amazing husband and beautiful kids were unable to join us due to upcoming exams for my 12 year old daughter. But they really do back me and it keeps me going.

 

This is my first blog in a long time. Due to company expansion I literally have had very little time. We spent an incredible time on our 5 day Program inCape Townin July engaging with about 12 senior lawyers and others. The debate was incredible and the experience eternally enriching. I will systematically invite past trainees to be profiled as there are some brilliant minds and there is profound insight to be shared.

 

Durbanhas been equally engaging and likewise we will be profiling trainees from that program with their permission.

 

We look forward to upcoming programs inBotswana, Pietermaritzburg andRhodesand will share our experience and learnings after that.

 

Upcoming newsletters will focus more on sources of work in ADR, the work we are doing, management of processes, capacity building, storytelling, access to justice and the role of restoration of dignity in peacemaking. These are all big topics. We are also setting up our own studio soon from where we will interview individuals around these topics which we will air on our You Tube Channel. We will also use the studio to produce high quality video footage for our online programs as well as our five day programs. There are also plans a foot to start a tv talk show specifically to invite individuals to come and tell their stories. Our view is that raising the vale of storytelling and its role in mediation will naturally lift the profile of mediation generally. More about that soon.

 

That’s all for now..until next time-Peace!

 

Please write to me sheena@mediatorsa.co.za

 

Sheena

 

 

 

 

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