Court-annexed mediation rolled out

February 1st, 2015

By Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele

Court-annexed mediation was rolled out on 1 December 2014 at certain magisterial districts in Gauteng and the North West.

Implementation commenced in 11 courts and will gradually be rolled-out to other courts country-wide. According to the Justice Department, mediation serves as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism. It is a process through which a mediator assists parties to reach a negotiated settlement and therefore avoid huge litigation costs, which saves litigants on both time and cost.

In a press release the Justice Department stated that parties involved in the mediation process do not have to be represented by a lawyer. However, a party may choose to be represented and pay the required legal fees. The responsibility of the mediator remains that of ensuring a fair and structured process with a level playing field, irrespective of whether parties are represented by lawyers or not.

The mediator is entitled to charge a fixed tariff in terms of the mediation rules. The cost is much lower than that of court litigation. The tariffs are fixed by the Justice Minister and are published in the Gazette from time to time. ‘This is to make sure that mediators do not overcharge for their services. In the normal court process, litigants carry costs on their own – however, this form of dispute resolution requires that both parties contribute equally to the cost of mediation,’ the Justice Department said.

According to the Justice Department, another significant benefit of mediation is that it is less adversarial and promotes restorative justice in that the dispute is resolved amicably to the satisfaction of both parties.

So far, the Justice Department has trained over 30 mediation clerks who have been appointed at the selected sites to assist litigants with steps that they must take to initiate mediation. They are also tasked with informing them of the payable tariffs for mediation. The clerks will also assist the public in choosing mediators of their choice from a panel of mediators who have been accredited by the Justice Minister.

At the moment, the magistrates’ courts which provide mediation are –

In Gauteng: Johannesburg, Kagiso, Krugersdorp, Palmridge, Pretoria North, Sebokeng, Soshanguve and Soweto.

And in the North West: Mmabatho, Temba and Pochefstroom.

Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele NDip Journ (DUT) BTech Journ (TUT) is the news editor at De Rebus.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2015 (Jan/Feb) DR 20.