Thursday, September 11, 2008


What happened to good old satire and metaphor in the past week? To listen to the controversy around depicting the justice system as a woman about to be raped, made me feel as though no one understands political satire anymore.
The cartoon was designed to be controversial - that is what cartoonists do!!
No, it was not a slap in the face for gender issues - it had nothing to do with rape and the horrifying statistics of gender violence in our country.
It also had nothing to do with Zuma's rape charge.
It was a a thought-provoking, sad and moving comment from an incisive mind on the threat to the justice system in this country.
It was apt and appropriate - if the shoe fits...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What exactly is respect?

When you ask people from different cultures, what they deem important about their values - most people will say: "respect". The truth is, that respect is not the same thing to all people. We have huge misunderstanding daily in South Africa on the basis of our perception of respect. Do we greet by standing upright and give a firm handshake, making eye-contact, or do we adopt a slightly submissive stance, with a weaker handshake, and casting our eyes down?

Do we greet everytime we see each other in the day, or do we greet once and then walk wordlessly past the person in the workplace, thinking that we have already greeted and then being perceived as being rude?

Do we say on the telephone: "Hello, how are you?" even though we have not met, or do we first introduce ourselves, before we ask how the other person is?

What I have learnt, is that people have huge differences in the workplace on approach to respect and these differences create misunderstanding on a daily basis.

Have you ever had someone walk away from you as you are conducting a conversation and wondered why they would do something so rude? Has it ever been explained to you, that the simple act of walking away in certain circumstances could be a sign of respect for you?

These are all questions I ponder about, as I make my way around the different interpretations of respect in South Africa.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Give us the manual!

Tradition in the legal profession has it that it takes years to groom a judge. Most people travel a long way, before they are able to don the robes and walk the hallowed corridors of the Judges’ Chambers. During that path, many subtle and sometimes not so subtle lessons are learned about what is done, by whom and by when. Senior partners of law firms, senior advocates at the bar, our principals, our colleagues and our opponents teach us in myriad ways what to do and more importantly, what not to do. Sometimes the lesson is gently conveyed – sometimes in such a brutal way that the lesson is never forgotten.

As a young lawyer, my court file that I forgot to paginate, was hurled into the court by an irate judge in front of a packed court room, with papers scattering everywhere, resulting in my having to scramble around on my hands and knees to pick them up; and it is a lesson that I will never forget. I once saw a clearly inexperienced colleague appear before a judge and the colleague did not know about the etiquette of introducing themselves to the judge before appearing in court. When this poor hapless person got up to present his case because it was next on the roll, the judge, without looking up at all, said: “Sir, I cannot hear you.” Thinking that the judge was hard of hearing (he was old) he leant down into the microphone and spoke louder. The stenographer almost jumped out of her skin. The judge just sighed and repeated in the same disengaged bored manner that he could not hear him. Eventually a colleague in the court took pity on this man, pulled him aside and asked whether he had introduced himself to the judge prior to the court proceedings. He stood the matter down, went to the judge to introduce himself. His matter was heard immediately after tea.

In recent years, our bench has been filled with men and women whose career-path has not been through the ranks – with people who have not had access to such an informal learning school, who have not had the benefit of these assimilated lessons - and there is no manual. Could it be possible that Judge Hlope and others before and after him could have benefitted from such a manual and is it not time to compile one?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cultural Sensitivity and Diversity Management

“Have you ever left an interaction with someone who is not from your cultural group, wondering what just happened.? When you left, did you think? “Was that person just rude to me, or is it a ‘cultural thing?’

The elephant in the room

Everything you ever wanted to ask a black/white/coloured/Indian person, but didn’t. The blog that deals with the elephant in the room.


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