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Mediation the ideal solution in sectional title disputes

The recent SAAM (South African Association of Mediators) conference, held in Parktown, Johannesburg, featured presentations by a line-up of leading international and local mediation experts, including specialist sectional title attorney Marina Constas, who shared her insights on mediation as an affordable and time-saving means to solve sectional title property disputes.

With court annexed mediation now a reality, the conference aimed to explore new opportunities in mediation.

The pilot project for the implementation of court-annexed mediation in a limited number of magistrates courts in South Africa kicked off at the end of 2014, and now includes nine courts in Gauteng and three in North West.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has published rules applicable to the fees payable to mediators, and the required qualification, standards and levels of mediators have been gazetted.

“Mediation is now part of South Africa’s legal framework,” says Constas, who is a director of BBM Attorneys and the co-author of Demistifying Sectional Title.

“With the costs of litigation and arbitration becoming prohibitive, mediation is becoming an increasingly popular alternative for resolving disputes in the South African sectional title industry.”

Constas believes the main reason why mediation is a good fit in the sectional title context is the close nature of the relationships between the parties involved – and the fact that these are likely to continue after the resolution of the dispute.

“Because owners live in proximity to each other and share common facilities, it is necessary to attempt to resolve disputes in a manner that keeps the peace and fosters harmony. In fact, the informal setting and atmosphere of mediation, as well as avoiding the emotional stress and anxiety that many people feel when appearing before a court, can even improve communication between parties,” she says.

Although many people avoid mediation due to the common misconception that it has no teeth, Constas stresses that parties to a successful mediation are able to enter into an agreement that may be made an order of court.

“It holds the same weight and force as a decision of the Court in the litigation process,” says Constas.


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