Case story

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ACCESS Case Story 5: Mediating Economic Interests in the Context of Xenophobia

ACCESS Case Story No. 5

Mediating Economic Interests in the Context of Xenophobia

By Hendrik Kotze

South Africa was recently (May 2015) in the news again because of xenophobic violence. This on-going reality makes it worthwhile to consider how mediators dealt with the aftermath of inter-communal violence in 2010 in De Doorns, a rural town in the wine and fruit producing area of the Western Cape, South Africa. In De Doorns, community conflict was not most directly with a company. Rather, companies found the human rights of their foreign workers and their own economic survival caught up in a conflict in which they were only an indirect actor, both in its creation and in its resolution. The case therefore helps us consider the responsibility of business when it contributes to rather than causes adverse human rights impacts, as well as its possibilities for action as a supporting player. We see in the De Doorns case how economic interests played an important role in the initiation and funding of the mediation process, and how economic inter-dependency was critical in determining the outcome of the process and the resulting reintegration of the communities. The case provides also valuable insight on the mostly reactive nature of social conflict mediation, illustrating the importance of investment in a more pro-active model by both business and government.

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South Africa