Fellow Since 1995
Mediation and Conciliation Centre
This profile was prepared when Mahmood Fadal was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
The relaxation of economic apartheid in the small business sector in the late 1980's precipitated an explosion of informal business activity among black South Africans. In the more than fifteen years since the legalization of black trade unions in the 1970's, conflict resolution and labor dispute mediation methods have proliferated, but they have not yet addressed the rampant violence in the informal and small business sectors. Trade union leader Mahmood Fadal has combined his union negotiation experience with training in dispute resolution to mold an original approach to this problem. He established a Mediation and Conciliation Centre to foster awareness and empowerment among small business communities through a better understanding of the constitution, the bill of rights, and the new Labor Relations Act. He offers an alternative to violence as a method of resolving conflict: use of the law and accepted labor practices. He holds structured discussions where he trains disputing parties, who include taxi drivers, domestic workers and street vendors, among others, to talk through their conflicts in the context of greater understanding of their legal and human rights. The members of the community thus develop greater ability to protect themselves against abusive employers or competitors and learn how to educate those who may inadvertently seek to violate their rights. These techniques are well suited to small and informal sector business, where there is often very little difference in the economic status of the employer and employee. By developing awareness of the common interests and problems employers and employees share and of the substantial benefits cooperation brings to all the parties, Mahmood shifts cooperation to a higher plane and helps small business owners, competitors and workers. Mahmood's process also encourages his clients to build new institutional mechanisms to resolve conflicts that arise in the future.