Department of Justice launches court-annexed Mediation in North West
16 February 2015
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD) has once again proven its commitment to transform the civil justice system and broaden access to justice services through the launch of the court-annexed Mediation. Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Advocate Michael Masutha, MP, officially launched the Court-Annexed Mediation in Mahikeng today (16 February 2015).
The mediation service provides an alternative dispute resolution mechanism which allows for a negotiated settlement between involved parties and alleviates the huge litigation costs. When there is a dispute between parties, a mediator will facilitate discussions between them, assist in identifying issues and explore areas of compromise at a cheaper and fixed tariff.
During the pilot phase of the programme the immediate focus will be mainly in civil and family disputes. “We will, over time, develop a legislative framework for the effective use of Alternative Dispute Resolution for the resolution of certain criminal cases where appropriate.” explained Minister Masutha.
North West and the Gauteng provinces became the first provinces to implement magisterial districts and court-annexed mediation which are radical reforms aimed at improving the justice system.
During the pilot phase, mediation will be voluntary and the focus will be on disputes that fall under the jurisdiction of the district and regional courts which is up to R200 000 and R400 000 respectively. However, the Magistrates’ Court Act permits parties may consent to a higher jurisdiction beyond the prescribed limits. “It is our hope that the pilot will culminate into a more rigid process whereby mediation could be compulsory and may extend to the disputes that fall within the jurisdiction of the High Courts,” he explained.
In the court where mediation is provided a room is dedicated for mediation services which will be known as Therisano Centre. “The make-up of the Therisano Centers will not have features of a court which are often intimidating. Instead, it will provide a welcoming atmosphere that facilitates constructive discussion,” explained Minister Masutha.
This court-annexed mediation will also enable government to cut its huge litigation bill by diverting claims against the state to mediation.
On the advice of the Mediation Advisory Committee, the Minister accredited a total of 231 mediators who are eligible for appointment by parties to a dispute to assist them in resolving their matters. The names of the accredited mediators across various sectors including the level of accreditation will, with effect from today 16 February 2015 be available on the Departmental website.
As part of building capacity at the courts to provide mediation services a total of 55 legal interns were appointed through the joint adventure of the Department and the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority. These interns were jointly trained by Justice College and the Mediation Advisory Committee.
Issued by the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development
Advocate Mthunzi Mhaga
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services