Vida and I have returned from Cape Town full of ideas about exchanging knowledge and expertise across borders. We learned a lot and hope the professionals we interacted with did as well.
We worked with our contact at University of Cape Town’s law school ─ Professor Debbie Collier ─ to deliver investigations training to a group that included internal complaint handlers at universities, members of the South African Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), and other professionals working in the field. Debbie was a great partner and connected us with principal players working in compliance in South Africa. We were introduced to Debbie through the Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality and Discrimination Law and now plan to work with the Center on more cross-border projects like this one.
By happenstance, a legal decision came down in South Africa within the last year that outlined the need for fair and thorough investigations of sexual harassment and set forth how to make credibility determinations, which dovetailed with our training. We found that the investigations training we give (with some modifications) worked as well in South Africa as it does in the U.S.
While we were in Cape Town, there was a serious incident of racial harassment at nearby Stellenbosch University, further highlighting the importance of the work we do. The complaint handler at Stellenbosch was part of the group we trained.
After delivering the training, I met with various constituency groups about next steps where we exchanged numerous ideas. These discussions included people from CCMA, labor lawyers at large firms, internal complaint handlers, and private providers of investigations, mediation and arbitration.
We learned that mediation is a much more common solution in South Africa than it is in the United States ─ something we can learn from them. But like in the U.S. and elsewhere, complaint handlers often lack the training and resources they need to do an adequate job.
We plan to continue to work with the South African compliance community, through the Fulbright grant and on our own, to partner with them. We will keep you posted on further developments in this area.
On a personal note, Vida was able to combine the trip with a visit to her family in Tanzania. Many of you know Vida but may not realize her father was Tanzanian and she spent her youth there. Her father was in charge of the Serengeti Research Institute when she was in elementary school. Vida hadn’t been back since she was ten. Countless cousins welcomed her at the airport at 2:00 a.m.
My spouse Jen, Vida, Vida’s husband Jeff, and I were able to have a bit of a vacation in the area – Cape Town and its environs are pretty spectacular. Below, Vida and I enjoying a hike on Table Mt.
Thanks to my colleague Gabrielle Handler, who grew up in Cape Town, for your many suggestions. From mountains to penguins to a deeply moving visit to Robben Island, we took advantage of what the area has to offer. At Robben Island the tours are given by former prisoners and prison guards. We saw the cell in which Mandela spent many years in isolation.
We return grateful to have the means to travel and the ability to participate in this impactful cross-border exchange.