Mediation is a form of alternate dispute resolution and has been around for thousands of years.

It is an assisted negotiation between two parties in conflict. This negotiation is facilitated by a neutral third person, the mediator. While mediation has a structure, timetable and dynamics that “ordinary” negotiation lacks, the mediator has no authority to bind any party or make any decision.

Mediation is usually voluntary, although over 40 statutes in South African provide for it, such as the Companies Act 2008 and Consumer Protection Act 2008. Its success rate in terms of agreements reached is around 70-80% if both the parties buy in to the procedure. There are no set formalities and therefore mediation can be fast, efficient and successful with the parties only being bound to a decision if they so wish. They retain control of the process and the solution. The mediator’s role is to assist the parties through their issues by investigating the root issues behind the conflict, inventing options for mutual gain, aiding communication, and supporting the airing of emotions.

If parties can see through their conflict and want to avoid the issues associated with litigation, they should consider mediation. Very often only a few hours are required to successfully mediate a conflict. Not only is time and money saved, but the on-going working relationship between the parties is usually preserved and the resultant agreement can be mutually beneficial. Further, while court hearings are public, mediation remains strictly confidential and only the parties involved and the mediator know what has happened. If an agreement is reached it can be made an order of court and therefore fully enforceable.

Paula Kennedy-Smith is an accredited mediator (by the ADR Network) with an international background in litigation and arbitration; she is sought-after and experienced in all matters ripe for mediation. Paula has been trained in working with difficult situations and is able to apply her mind to create “out of the box” solutions. She is able to assist parties mediate disputes in a variety of domains, such as commercial, legal, workplace, community and family matters.