From 18-20 August 2014, ACCORD conducted a workshop on election-related Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanisms with the Electoral Commissioners Forum of the Southern African Development Community (ECF-SADC). This workshop, which convened approximately thirty Chairpersons and Chief Electoral Officers from the election management bodies of the SADC Member States, strove to both enhance the participants’ conflict management skills and to reflect upon the opportunities towards ensuring and promoting the conduct of peaceful elections throughout the region.
The collaboration between ACCORD and ECF-SADC crucially falls within ACCORD’s strategic focus of enhancing the conflict management capacities of Africa’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs), as well as on the specific substantive emphasis on preventing and mitigating election-related disputes.
Held in Durban, South Africa, this three-day workshop was chaired by Mr Vasu Gounden, ACCORD’s Founder and Executive Director, the outgoing ECF-SADC Chairperson, Honourable Justice (Rtd) Damian Lubuva, (Chairman of Tanzania’s National Electoral Commission) and the incoming ECF-SADC Chairperson, Honourable Justice Mahapela Lehohla (Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Lesotho). Over the course of the workshop, the participants were engaged on a number of critical thematic issues and conflict management sessions related to: current and future conflict trends, conflict analysis and strategy design, election-dispute mechanisms and processes, six principles of negotiation, and an introduction to mediation. Many of these sessions were chaired by Mr Gounden and by Ms Titi Pitso, ACCORD’s Election Advisor; each session featured robust debates and key reflections on critical issues related to the conduct of peaceful elections.
This workshop also comprised a number of important opportunities for the participants to engage a number of prominent individuals on election-related issues. On the evening of 18 August 2014, ACCORD hosted a private screening of the documentary 1994: The Bloody Miracle for its participants at the cinemas in Suncoast Casino. The documentary, which encapsulates the violent conflicts and political dynamics during 12 months prior to South Africa’s first democratic elections in April 1994, recently received the ‘Audience Award for Best Documentary’ at the 2014 Durban International Film Festival (DIFF). Mr Bert Haitsma, the documentary’s co-Director and Cinematographer introduced the documentary and set the stage for the key issues that would be explored during the 90-minute piece. Following the screening, Honourable Baleka Mbete, the Speaker of South Africa’s National Assembly and Chairperson of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, addressed the delegates and reflected on her own experiences during the period prior to April 1994 elections.
On the morning of 20 August 2014, the workshop hosted an interactive panel session featuring three prominent experts on elections: Mr Ahmed Issack Hassan, Chairperson of Kenya’s Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC); Dr Brigalia Bam, former member of the African Union (AU) Panel of the Wise and former Chairperson of South Africa’s Independent Elections Commission (IEC); and Dr Khabele Matlosa, the Director of the AU’s Department of Political Affairs. Chairperson Hassan provided an informative overview of Kenya’s experiences during its March 2013 General Elections and the necessary institutional transformations undertaken by its IEBC to prevent an occurrence of the violence that plagued its 2007 General Elections. Dr Bam spoke on the role of the AU Panel of the Wise as a tool for preventative diplomacy on election issues and her experiences as the Chairperson of South Africa’s IEC. Finally, Dr Matlosa spoke on the role of the AU Department of Political Affairs and its support to election management bodies, as well as on the roles of election management bodies in managing societal diversity.
At the conclusion of the workshop, participants expressed their gratitude to both ACCORD and the ECF-SADC for their roles in convening the workshop, and were similarly appreciative the importance and relevance of the deliberations and skills learned.