Mediation serves as an often effective alternative dispute resolution measure which aims to reach a negotiated settlement between parties and avoid the substantial costs of litigation as well as avoiding the time delays often experienced in our court systems.
In terms of the amended Magistrate Court Rules the purpose of mediation is to:
- Promote access to justice;
- Promote restorative justice;
- Preserve relationships between litigants or parties to a dispute;
- Facilitate expeditious and cost-effective resolution;
- Assist litigants to determine at an early stage whether a trial or an opposed application is in their interests;
- Provide solutions to a dispute which is beyond the scope and powers of a judicial officer.
Court-annexed mediation is the submission by parties to the mediation of a dispute, prior to the commencement of litigation or where litigation has commenced but judgment has not yet been obtained.
A litigant involved in litigation may request a referral to mediation or the court may enquire into the possibility of mediation and accord all parties the opportunity to refer the matter.
All time limits relating to pleadings are suspended when a matter is referred to mediation. A party may choose to be legally represented but this is not compulsory, it is the responsibility of the mediator to ensure a fair and structured process.
The appointed mediator is entitled to charge a tariffed fee, which is lower than the cost of litigation and which is shared by the parties.
Court-annexed mediation was rolled out in certain magisterial districts in Gauteng and the North West on 1 December 2014 and will gradually be rolled-out to other courts country-wide. There has however to date been no indication of when this may happen.