Reflections on 2023 and Aspirations for 2024

15 November 2023

Felicity Steadman

Felicity Steadman is co-founder and Director of Conflict Dynamics and Chairperson of the Conflict Dynamics Empowerment TrustShe has been a professional in the field of dispute resolution since 1989, 'the IMSSA' days of ADR in South Africa. She co-designed the training materials for the first cohort of CCMA commissions and was herself a senior CCMA commissioner. She was trained and accredited as a commercial mediator by the London-based Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) in 2003, with whom she is actively engaged as Head of Faculty of mediator training. Felicity is certified by the International Mediation Institute, registered with the Civil Mediation Council in the UK, and is on the CEDR Chambers and Oxford Mediation panel of mediators. She currently works as a full-time mediator and maintains a steady caseload. She mediates a wide variety of disputes including employment and workplace, information, communications and technology, right of way, trusts, wills and probate, financial services, and partnership and shareholder.

Siham Boda

Siham is a consultant at Conflict Dynamics, a member of the Conflict Dynamics panel of mediators, and is an accredited Commercial and Workplace mediator. She is an admitted Advocate of the High Court of South Africa and has practiced both locally and internationally, specializing in Constitutional and Public International Law. Siham served as a clerk both at the Constitutional Court of South Africa and the Land Claims Court. She practiced as a consultant in the corporate and public sector where she gained experience in dispute management and forensic investigations in a wide range of industries. Siham is an independent dispute resolution practitioner and has mediated many disputes and chaired disciplinary hearings drawing upon her legal, corporate, and investigative experience to deliver effective mediation processes. 

Conflict Dynamics was established in 1996 in the optimistic post-apartheid years to provide pragmatic skills development services, initially to the CCMA, and then to employers and employees. These services were mainly in relation to training in the fields of industrial relations and mediation. We continue to do this in a wide range of private companies, parastatal organisations, and for government.

Our training of mediators continues to be extensive. This year we accredited 88 mediators from many different walks of life. Our training is accredited by the International Mediation Institute and benchmarked with the training offered by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution in the UK. Besides our public courses this year we also trained in-house mediators for FirstRand, Stellenbosch University, and the Companies Tribunal.

Organisations continued this year to recognise the importance of managing workplace discipline fairly, and our courses on preparing and presenting in disciplinary hearings as well as chairing such hearings remain popular. Transnet Engineering used our services this year to roll out a company-wide customised training course for approximately 400 employees, with many more of their employees due to attend the same training in 2024. This training was conducted very successfully on a hybrid basis, with some learners in the physical training venue and others simultaneously joining in from around the country via MS Teams. These critical skills were also imparted to managers and supervisors at Wits University, Assmang Khumani Mine and others.

Conflict in workplaces is inevitable and the issues that cause conflict have expanded. Our range of conflict management training courses has grown to meet this need. This year, Conflict Dynamics conducted extensive workplace harassment awareness-raising training in organisations such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa. Schools continue to show interest in training in Conflict Management for Interpersonal Conflict to deal with tensions between parents and teachers, and between other constituencies within the school, and we again this year conducted numerous courses for the Independent Schools Association of South Africa. Unconscious bias awareness-raising training and training in psychological safety are also growing in demand.

While we undertook some training on Negotiation Skills for Collective Bargaining (Joint Union & Management Training), most notably for Anglo American Technical and Bombela Operating Company, we hope that, with the adversarial nature of labour management relations, more parties will consider the value of such training in the run-up to collective bargaining in 2024.

With declining union membership in South Africa, it is heartening to continue training our course on Managing in a Unionised Environment and Shop Steward training for organisations such as Nestle, Debar Ceramics, Actom and the MerSETA. New representative forums are regularly established in workplaces in terms of the Employment Equity Act, and Conflict Dynamics has trained members and chairpersons of such forums at, for example, Standard Bank, Oracle and Colgate.

The importance of engagement between employers and employees can’t be emphasised enough, whether it is through formal representative structures or in relationship-building initiatives such as the Relationships by Objectives (RBO) process. Conflict Dynamics provides experienced facilitators for such processes and this year worked extensively with multiple teams in the Government Employees Medical Scheme. Facilitated processes such as these provide opportunities for trust to be built in an otherwise fractious environment.

The Conflict Dynamics panel of mediators mediated a wide range of disputes this year. We hope that with the growing awareness of the value of mediation, and pressure on parties to comply with High Court Rule 41A, more parties and their representatives will use mediation. Mediation is a quicker process and often offers a more satisfactory outcome to parties than a litigated process does.

This year the Conflict Dynamics panel of chairpersons conducted a considerable number of investigations and enquiries for parties who require an independent chair, including Nestle and the Government Employees Medical Scheme.

Finally, our work with young people is increasing through the Conflict Dynamics Empowerment Trust. Conflict and violence is a growing problem in South African schools. Our Peacemaker Project aims to equip teachers and learners with real-life skills and insights to manage conflict more effectively. Our Young Mediators project aims to equip recent law graduates, in particular, with knowledge of the range of dispute resolution processes, and to provide them with skills to advocate for mediation in the work they do, whether they are employed in a law firm or in-house. South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world, and we aim to match each young employed lawyer on this program with a young unemployed lawyer.

As we look forward to 2024 we intend to:

  • Expand Our Reach: Our goal for the new year is to broaden our training reach to more individuals and organisations, creating a network of skilled negotiators and mediators across diverse industries, as well as building the people management skills of managers, supervisors, and shop stewards across the South African workplace landscape.
  • Foster Lasting Relationships: We look forward to deepening the connections with our clients, panelists, and alumni, building a supportive community that continues to grow and learn together.
  • Innovate in Education: We aspire to stay at the forefront of mediation, negotiation employment relations education, and we are committed to incorporating the latest research and technology into our training programs.
  • Promote Positive Change: We aim to inspire positive change for our clients and partners through effective conflict resolution and negotiation training and continuous professional development.
  • Celebrate Success Stories: We will highlight success stories from our trainers and panelists who have delivered excellent programmes and services.
  • Collaborate for Excellence: We aspire to collaborate with experts in related fields to offer a comprehensive approach to conflict resolution, further enhancing the quality of our training.
  • Nurture Personal Growth: We are committed to supporting the personal and professional growth of our clients and panelists, helping them unlock their full potential through mediation, negotiation, and people management skills.
  • Commit to Continuous Learning: We will encourage all our clients, panelists, and subscribers to embrace a lifelong learning mindset, and our aspiration is to be a reliable source of knowledge and inspiration in their journey.