Restoring Justice to Marginalized Communities. Member Spotlight: Indrani Govender

Indrani Govender, located in Durban, South Africa, is an independent consultant at Resource Consulting, specializing in International Mediation Training, as well as Land, Civil, Commercial and Community Mediation. Holding over two decades of mediation experience, Indrani, a fourth-generation Indian, began her career in the post-apartheid era. As South Africa retains a grim history of indentured Indian laborers and an apartheid-run government, Indrani brings justice to those marginalized communities during the new wave of democracy.

A New Meaning in Life

Indrani obtained her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Communications from the University of South Africa. After her studies, in which she did not desire to become a psychologist nor a lawyer, Indrani admits she was in a period which she calls a “search for meaning in life”. Thus, she began working in training and development with an insurance company in South Africa. In the post-apartheid era, the transition period from the apartheid-led government to democratic institutions, she trained line managers in amended labor relations laws.

Procedural adherence to Labour Relations Act was a new era in democracy for South Africa. Now, it would be more difficult to dismiss an employee without following a procedure. As Indrani helped line managers to understand the new labor laws, she began to understand mediation as she was a mutual third party to the employees and employers; helping them to understand the best way to achieve equality. She also chaired disciplinary hearings and presided as a commissioner at the dispute resolution center for unfair dismissal disputes. After becoming pregnant with her son, Indrani chose to be a single parent, forcing her into self-employment, yet giving her the outstanding opportunity to begin her own mediation practice.

Affirming, “I always like recreating myself”, Indrani decided to drop the human relations and industrial relations focus and become devoted to mediation. With her background in psychology and communications, she explains that she “married her labor resources and psychology practices”. She began to work with small business owners, aiming to restructure departments and represent the employers in courts. From here, the devoted practitioner went on to accomplish a postgraduate degree in Labour Law at the University of Johannesburg. As a self-development person, Indrani also became a CEDR Accredited Mediator, and she received her diploma in International Arbitration from RICS.

After her immense studies and experience, Indrani was invited to a panel that was mediating land rights disputes in South Africa, before referral to the Land Claim Courts. As the panel was actively searching for mediators in each province, she became a provincial mediator and due to the high settlement of difficult cases, she was appointed as a national mediator and has served on the board since 2007.

“I want Justice to Prevail”

As a mediator in a post-apartheid country, you will always have to “re-evaluate the boundaries in which parties’ can co-exist together”, Indrani explains. After the sweeping election of Nelson Mandela, communal property acts and land reform acts such as the Extension of Security Tenure Act & Labour Tenants Act were passed in order to secure tenure or ownership of the portion of land that tenants used to live on. This proved difficult for many landowners to accept, as Indrani explains it led “to disparity and dysfunctionality between occupiers and landowners”. Dealing with predominantly black on white  & black on black conflicts, Indrani would attempt to bring both parties/communities together with the aim of restoring peace, human dignity, and ongoing harmonious relations.

After her success as a provincial mediator, Indrani was invited to the national arena of negotiations. Here, Indrani explains she was responsible for “re-installing restoration wherever the imbalance was occurring”. She dealt with high court conflict cases as a mediator and regulator in cases where people had been dispossessed under apartheid and now were restituted to communal property. At times there can exist 15 families to one property, having to co-exist with one another. “I tried to restore some type of harmony”, Indrani says.

Indrani believes the South African government has failed many communities in the restitution process. They “handed over multi-million dollar valued lands to communities, without adequately preparing beneficiaries with mentorship programs and due monitoring and evaluating of the communal property”. Most often, elders are marginalized in these communities because they are not as educated as to the youth; “people are dishonest, and a small minority start benefiting from resources that are generated from the farm that was once run very commercially and earned a lot of income”. The farms become dysfunctional and communities tear. This is where Indrani uses her expertise, mediating the conflict to the point of neutralizing, and then regulating the beneficiaries within the communal property.

Restoring Justice

“I’ve always been interested in peacekeeping and restorative justice”, says Indrani. While mediating in Nigeria, she met a member who introduced her to Prabha Sankaranarayan, president and CEO of MBBI. When she heard of MBBI, she stated, she wanted to “see how I could add some value to the space”. Since her induction, she has been involved in the marketing and engagement team of MBBI, as well as a few working groups.

Mediating in over 10 countries, Indrani notes that “mediation is mediation is mediation no matter where you are in the world; it’s about bringing parties together to a common ground”. The solution is never proposed, it comes voluntarily from the two parties. Indrani concludes, “There’s nothing more rewarding than helping people that are imprisoned by their entrenched positions. You help to find a creative solution, one in which they can live”.

Article by Emily Shultis, MBBI Writer