Commentary: Voices from the new South Africa

Albie M. Davis
  • Alternatives to the High Cost of Litigation, July 1995, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1002/alt.3810130707

What is it about?

This article was written in 1995 on an 18-hour return airplane from a trip to Johannesburg, South Africa to my home in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. For context, Nelson Mandela, who had served 27 years in jail, was released in 1990. He was elected President of South Africa in 1994. Prior to my trip, the Urban Community Mediatiors, my home mediation program, had hosted a multicultural group of mediators from South Africa. This was love at first sight. After the South African mediators returned home, I was asked to plan a curriculum for mediation trainers (training for trainers) and to attend a nationwide conference. I worked hard to honor the South African experience, but knew that would be next to impossible. I was "learning on the job," and that learning continues today (2017). When I arrived in Boston, I sent my airplane thoughts to those whom had invited me. I was surprised when it appeared in print. * For an interesting timeline with good photos see: The Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013:

Why is it important?

In 1989, I came across the thoughts of Mary Parker Follett (1868 - 1933), a woman from Quincy, Massachusetts, who "had a way with words." As I write this small entry, the United States is once again on the verge of losing its democracy. It helps me to read Follett's "The New State (1918)" which she wrote during WWI: The first reform needed in our political practice is to find some method by which the government shall continuously represent the the people. No state can endure unless the political bond is being forever forged anew. (New State p. 11)


Albie M. Davis (Author)
The Follett Group

When I think that Mary Parker Follett could remain optimistic/realistic during World War I, I feel a mandate to keep up my morale. She reminds us: "The fundamental reason for the study of group psychology is that no one can give us democracy, we must learn democracy. (New State p. 22) In her next book, Creative Experience, she reminds us: "Experience may be hard but we claim its gifts because they are real, even though our feet bleed on its stones." (Creative Experience 1924, p 302)

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