'Africa is not for sissies - dare to succeed.' This billboard sign is prominently displayed on one of the busiest highways in South Africa. A culture of 'toughness'? Or does the billboard reflect the observation of psychologists and traumatologists locally and abroad that there is something like 'developing world resilience'? It is the slogan of a nation battered by violent crimes, job losses, the HIV/AIDS holocaust and a myriad of socio-economic problems of which workplace bullying is one.
South African societies are characterised by the exceptionally high levels of trauma at all levels. The traumatic experiences of the notorious 'Apartheid Wars' and The Struggle against the regime blew the basic tissues of social life apart, resulting in collective and individual traumas.
The prevailing high levels of crime and violence have resulted in trauma of pandemic proportions in South Africa transcending all racial, economic, gender, age, status, national and geographic divides. There is thus an urgent and dramatic need for traumatological intervention on an unprecedented scale. Trauma sufferers, without proper trauma intervention, are prevented from resuming and leading normal and productive lives. Despite the levels of trauma encountered in South Africa very little has been done, or is being done, to reverse the effects of trauma.
South Africa has always played a leading role in labour legislation in the world. A founder member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), South Africa was the first country in the world to codify labour legislation. After the mineworkers' strike in 1922, the government introduced the Industrial Conciliation Act in 1924. Yet, a serious problem such as workplace bullying, like societal trauma, is not receiving its due attention from the authorities. In a developing country one is constantly challenged with the situational dynamics of society. There is always a more serious threat, there are always more urgent priorities. These realities apply when dealing with workplace bullying too. However, the argument that workplace bullying is part of the bigger, serious challenges facing the workplace, is gaining momentum.