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Mandela Institute at Wits School of Law makes history

- Wits University

In the week of Madiba's birthday, the Mandela Institute at Wits School of Law hosted the first international conference in SA on court annexed mediation.

South Africa has recently adopted a pilot project on court annexed mediation in a number of magistrate’s courts. The purpose of the conference, entitled; Court Annexed Mediation: Successes, Challenges and Possibilities was to analyse the mediation rules pertaining to the project, its successes, failures and possibilities. 

In order to do so organisers under the leadership of Wits School of Law’s Dr. Alli Chicktay arranged speakers from throughout Africa, England and Australia including the Deputy Chief Justice of Namibia, judges from South Africa and Uganda, heads of Law Societies, state attorneys, advocates,  academics and pioneers in mediation from Nigeria, England and Australia.

The conference organizers welcomed the rules as a move in a positive direction by the executive but concluded that major changes were needed in order for the rules to be more effective. The changes suggested include:

  • Extending mediation to all courts including the High Court.
  • That court annexed mediation be made compulsory and be given free to indigent communities who cannot afford the current tariff.
  • That more resources be put into mediation by the executive. This includes better infrastructure and training of permanent mediation support staff.
  • It was also recommended that the South African Judiciary work together with the executive in developing court annexed mediation in South Africa.

The South African court system denies access to justice to millions of South Africans who cannot afford litigation. It is also time consuming. Delaying access to courts would in effect deny access to justice.

Not only does mediation save time and money it also enables parties to determine the outcome of their own disputes. In essence it gives parties self-ownership of the outcome of their disputes and ultimately dignity.

It’s essential that the rules be amended to give effect to our Constitutional values and the protection of the fundamental rights of all South Africans.