We need to encounter the pain and confusion head on so that we can heal. So, do we tell it like it is? Or do we tell it like we are?
We are all made up of a complex mix of our biology, our experience, what we’ve been taught, what made sense to us at the time, those who have influenced us, our suffering, our triumphs and I could go on.
So to answer the question, it’s probably a bit of everything. Both, and.
I spend my working life mediating high conflict and often complex legal disputes. This means that I spend a lot of time with people going through some of the most profound pain of their lives. In Criminal Justice and Civil Justice in the judicial system, the pain is often masked behind voluminous papers, warring legal teams, complex rules of procedure and the cumbersome of the bureaucratic. Lives are still falling apart, wealth and health is still being destroyed, but it may not have a human face. We lose sight of the pain.
In alternative processes like mediation we encounter the pain, the confusion, the torment head on. We also encounter the healing, the peace, the “just-ness” head on at various points along the way and at the end if we get all the way though to resolution. And that is why we do this work.
But we need to keep learning, keep avoiding assumption, finding new ways to remain open, compassionate and insightful. Especially when parties become stuck in the sheer woundedness of it all.
So I’m always seeking out new ways to learn of and understand the human condition in all of it’s messiness and beauty which can and often does exist all at the same time.
There is this Irish Phrase ar eagla no heagla that translates “for fear of fear”
What if the way we tell it, is the way it is, and the way we tell it is the way are and at that point where we are is in a place of being terrified of fear. So we can’t really be in the here, because we want to get out as quickly as possible and so we don’t stay and look around and learn what we need to learn.
Most conflicting parties I deal with are in a profound state of fear. More so, terrified of the fear.
In David Wagoner’s poem, “Lost”:
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called here
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger
Taking Courage to Stop and Look Around
Sometimes we help parties stand still and look around. And meet the powerful stranger. We help them be here long enough to learn what they need to. To learn things from the place they are in but wish they are not. Sometimes that is the only way they will be able to move from that place. From here.
One of our most important roles may be to assist conflicting parties in taking courage to stop and look around in the here. Whether they are here by disaster or by choice. What must be learned here? We help them discover that.
O Tuama tells the story of Jesus and the disciples and the boat and the storm and he says it is as if to say that only in the middle of a storm can we find a truth that will steady us.
Sometimes we assist parties to go into the storm to find that truth that will steady them.
“What is the name of the place you are in now?” O Tuama says “It requires close looking. It requires the dedication of observation and commitment to truth. To name it requires to be in a place. It requires as to resist dreaming of where we should be, and look around where we are.”
Sometimes we resist naming where we are. Words have power and we fear giving power to a place we don’t want to be in, by naming it.
Helping Parties to take Courage
Sometimes we are there to help parties to take courage to name the place they are in assuring them that it doesn’t mean they will stay there. Anger. Pain. Trauma. What if my telling it like it is and telling it like I am is an angry, excruciatingly painful mix of all that has happened, all that is and all that I feel. And what if the same mess of things is true for the person I am in conflict with.
Sometimes we help parties start here. Stand Still. Look around. Go into the storm. The truth needed to steady them may be found there. And it will take courage.
Sometimes we are there to literally help parties be here.
A quick note to say that last week the Chatsworth Refugee Camp closed after 3 months negotiations with displaced foreigners. A group of 150 refugees were not willing to accept the offered repatriation or re-integration packages primarily since it would involve either going back into SA communities or returning to Burundi or DRC which they had all previously escaped from under war or emergency conditions. So either option is terrifying. Access to Justice lawyers secured their release from prison last Monday after they were arrested following their refusal to leave. They are very temporarily accommodated on a farm in KZN with all kinds of collateral considerations. On Friday we initiated a mediation process which seeks to generate options and find solutions. We are still in the fact finding or story telling phase and we urgently need more volunteer mediators to help listen and transcribe stories. Some have never ever got to tell their stories before. Not only will it strengthen our approach to UNHRC special interventions unit, but the process of being heard for the first time individually has powerful implications for all. If you can help, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
For mediator training enquiries, please email email@example.com
We have 40 mediator training this month in Johannesburg. The Thursday of the Program covers court annexed mediation and can also be done as a one day Program at R 1000 for those with prior 40 hour training or relevant experience
Please get in touch for information packs at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other workshop dates are:
20-24 April Johannesburg
20-26 June Durban
6-10 July Johannesburg/Durban/Bloemfontein
3-7 August Cape Town/PE
Please note there is a 75% discount for all SAPS or Correctional Services employees paying for themselves
The full cost of the program is R 11 999 with various monthly payment options and discounts for advance payment in full
To become an accredited member of our panel (including the Access to Justice Association of Southern Africa NPO) please email email@example.com. You will receive a dedicated ADR Network SA email address
3. Featured Mediator
Every Wednesday between 8am and 10am we run a featured mediator section. This is to introduce currently-registered and accredited members of our panel on all our networks and to our mailing lists. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
4. Current Work
Aside from long-established mediation and ADR work in Divorce, Workplace and Commercial Disputes, we are gaining growing traction and enjoying expanding favour in Disputes Relating to community evictions, public protest action and collateral public violence suits, personal injury matters and human rights matters generally.
Early next week we meet with the City of Durban on interventions on the ongoing Xenophobic attacks in our region. As always, we intend mobilizing at the cause, not just the symptoms. For two long, Restorative Justice Practitioners have mobilized mainly at Reactive and Redemptive Violence. We need to mobilize more strongly at originating violations and systemic and structural issues that violate communities and perpetuate poverty
5. Alternative and Solidarity Economics
I am currently looking at alternatives in economic systems and the role of ADR in solidarity economics. Developing Countries are seeing success in addressing ever-growing and devastating economic inequality with workers taking control of failing businesses in industry where owners are declaring bankruptcy. This is an exceptionally interesting development where worker co-operatives are established with the solidarity of supportive stakeholders. The application in this for ADR is endless and it is to be explored further. I will publish more comprehensive thoughts on this later this week. If you have a particular interest in this, please email email@example.com
I returned from Cape Town last night and this morning as I opened 3 brand new files for evictions of communities, I wept.
Look. The weather in Cape Town was enough to make any grown Durbanite cry, but right now, I write of not natural phenomena, but imposed human tragedy and suffering.
I was in Cape Town, primarily to advocate for members of the Taxi Industry who are patently being sidelined and subject to arbitrary non-renewal and non-granting of permits which is accompanied by, expensive, and sometimes violent, law enforcement.
While I was there, I was consulted by yet another community facing eviction. Correction, this is the first one facing eviction. The other two were evicted in some kind of act first and explain later massacre of the law and complete derogation of the essential standard of what is humane.
This community faces eviction. And they were referred to me by Ses’khona on the day before the action for eviction was to be heard in court.
I met with the community leaders who handed me a heart breaking statement they had written on the mandate of the community. I publish it here, with their consent.
“New Castle residents we came from inside Monwabisi Park that know as Ndlovini, we were living as back yarders and house keepers. Living like that was never been pleasant, the land lords do whatever they like because they know that we were depending on them. It hurt deep inside when somebody is telling you that should’ve been living on the streets if he/she didn’t accepted you in his/her space.
Being a backyarder had never been easy. You must always keep in your mind that anytime you can be kicked out as that happened to us, because we were not in our own space or plot. What during the process of development we were given the notice by our land lords to move our shack out so they can put their relatives and children on the spaces so they can get development. It is hard to refuse when someone is telling you that, while you know that you living in his/her space. Rent and electricity are so expensive, some of us are not working, and some of us does not get enough salary/wages to go rent some else when we got kicked out. When got kicked out we didn’t know where to go, we then decided to use piece of land to build us some houses.
As there is a speech or saying here in South Africa, South Africa belong to all who live in it, our feeling on that speech is like we are foreigners in our country. We then decided to come to this space at back of Ndlovini which we called it New Castle and use it as our home. A home is where it is safe, we took that as our responsibility to keep New Castle safe and secured.
In New Castle we did not mean to interrupt the metro of City of Cape Town on the progress of working. As the slogan of our metro says, this City works for you, we sincerely want it to work for us on this really hard situation. We have families and children to take care, we don’t afford to be on the streets.
As New Castle residents we are sincerely needed a place to live and that’s why we ended up here.”
So yesterday what I did was attempt to call the City’s attorneys to let them know we had been instructed and needed time to consult with the community and instruct a legal team to represent them. I found that even with a case number and file reference number, the firm dealing with the matter could not direct me to the attorney handling the matter. I have over 10 years experience formerly practising as an attorney and conveyancer, over 18 years experience in teaching law and ADR and in the practice of alternative dispute resolution and restorative justice. And I could not secure these details. What chance does a Xhosa speaking community of urban shack-dwellers facing eviction by the City have?
As I was heading down to court the community leader called me
“Mamma, the community is waiting at court for you
I’m on my way
Mamma can the community sing?
Yes, you can sing. But remain peaceful. We must be safe.
As I arrived at the court, I heard a group approaching, singing.
They gathered in from of the court and I thought it was the New Castle Community. But I stood on the court steps waiting for the community leaders. The group were singing and dancing, but they were peaceful.
At some point I was called by our clients. They had gone to the wrong court and I directed them to the High Court. I realised the community before me were not our clients. I learned this was a community who had been evicted and their matter was also in court.
At some point a police officer approached me:
“This group must stop singing
Why? They are peaceful, I said
Do they have permits to gather?
They have been evicted and summoned to court. They have every right to be here, I said
The police officer turned menacing and took out his phone threatening that if they do not stop singing he would “call who I have to call”
He a wrapped up his threats with “They will disturb the office workers and we can’t allow that”
Seeing this engagement the group started to Toyi Toyi. So just to help diffuse the situation I approached one of the members upfront to chat to them. The community became suspicious and started to chant “shoot, shoot, shoot.” In Xhosa. I with the assistance of someone with me was able to convey that we were allies of their plight and not against them and all remained calm.
Time was getting short so I headed up to court to see if I could find the City’s lawyers. The registrar was helpful and said as soon as they arrived, he would introduce them to me. Looking around the court and seeing it filling up with Advocates rapidly, I said to the registrar, the community is gathering outside and there is another community. I think things may be tense with police and I may like to invite the community in just to help mitigate against any injury or harm.
“We don’t care what happens out there, they can kill each other for all I care. We don’t have space in here”
So I said, Sir, I think we have a responsibility to guard against injury and loss of life.
The Registrar softened and said “Madam, you are right, and they have every right to be here. Inside. Please invite them in”
When the City Legal Team got there, they were immediately directed to me. They were gracious and approachable and agreed on a two week postponement for Access to Justice to understand the case against the community and instruct an appropriate legal team.
Outside, in the rain, I addressed the community, with the help of one of our Taxi Operator clients who helped me interpret and who helped me get to Court and Assisted me in navigating all the territory, literally and figuratively. I explained to the community the purpose of the adjournment and how we would gather information and advocate for engagement with the City in terms of Section 26 of the Constitution and the Grootboom case which makes it unlawful for Administration to evict without proper consultation on alternative living arrangments. I also gave them comfort, confirmed by the City’s legal team, that no action to evict would be undertaken immediately.
As we were wrapping up, a woman approached me and asked to meet with me. She happens to be the acting head of the SA Human Rights Commission of the Province. We met later and discussed the disturbing trend of local government and the state literally negating the needs of the poor and actually creating further homelessness. We spoke of the plight of the poor as the sleeping giant about to surge up and agreed that we would do all we could to work in solidarity with each other and others who recognize this as untenable for every citizen of the country. And we agreed that we would respond to the plight of the poor in this with whatever measures we can to protect them against further injury, further homelessness and further, extra-aneously imposed poverty. We agreed that it is in the interests of every single citizen of this land that we protect the poor.
We will not accept a status quo where office workers are protected from hearing singing in the streets, but the poor are not safe in their own homes. And the enemy of the poor, happens to be the very ones with a responsibility to protect them
Here is an update on some of the latest developments in the world of ADR and Access to Justice:
1. COURT ANNEXED MEDIATION
Please note that the date for sending back commentary on published accreditation standards and Standards and norms is 28 August 2014. If you have not seen the gazetted notice and would like it sent to you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Copy of Gazette Notice” in the headerPlease note our Cape Town Five Day Program proceeds next week and on the Thursday we will cover court annexed mediation and developments to date. All panellists are welcome.Past trainees, as you know may attend all further workshops at cost of catering
We have a limited amount of places on our distance learning program still available at a subsidized rate of R 3000. This is suitable for those who cannot take off 5 consecutive days. Contact time will be made up via webinars and attendance at half day seminars
3. ACCESS TO JUSTICE PROVINCIAL SUBSTRUCTURESThe Cape Town Provincial Substructure meeting will happen directly after next Thursday’s workshop
Also if you are keen to help us host a golf day in any other centre, please get in touch similarly
Please diarise 18 November in Durban for the first annual Access to Justice Golf Day. If you are interested in entering, sponsoring a fourball, prizes or a green or tee, it will be great exposure for legal services or ADR and ancillary services. Please send an email to email@example.com with “Golf Day” in the header
Remember that past trainees just pay cost of catering (normally R 220 per day) and panellists attend Thursday (ie Court Annexed Mediation) at no charge
For Upcoming dates or a proposal on in-house training, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Five Day Training” in the header
6. JUSTICE NEWS
Our Online News Postal, Justice News is live! This is an aggregator bringing together the work of dynamic bloggers and writers that write around legal, social, political and economic justice and creation care. In time you will be able to buy advertising space. To link your blog, or website, please send an email to email@example.com with “Justice News” in the header. Also please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to query advertising opportunities. Use the header “Advertising”
If you wish to join the panel of ADR Network SA or as a service provider to Access to Justice, please email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org with “panel” and “service provider” in the respective headersPanellists enjoy ongoing attendance at training times and newtworking functions either at no charge or preferential rates
8. S v Sangweni ADR Dialogue
The ADR Diversion Dialogue in the matter of S V Sangweni proceeded this week. The mediation panel consisted of myself, Sheena Jonker, Brandon Abdinor, Hilton Green, Sipho Mdlala and for part of the time, Jay Gangat. The dialogue adjourned yesterday to enable us to complete an interim Mediation Summary for purposes of report back to court next week. Legal Counsel will ask for charges to be withdrawn and whether they are or not, the ADR Dialogue will continue as some significant issues have emerged during the storytelling process and as the week progressed individuals and those representing organizations such as the Department of Labour and Local ABM Warrooms became increasingly aware of the power of the process.
It was also amazing to see the value of the public narrative and how healing and powerful the story telling process is. This in itself mobilizes hope
9. Lwandle Ministerial Inquiry
We will be making further submissions on diversion to ADR Restorative Justice Process and will keep you updated
10. More Evictions
This week alone I was consulted on the threatened eviction of hundreds of families in KZN and this morning I have already been consulted on the demolution of 600 shacks as of an hour ago in Cape Town. I am waiting on further information and will be dealing with this further in Cape Town next week.
Thanks for your attention, support and continued interest in our work.