TRADE: Chamber Launches Dispute Settlement Centre
Recent Western Cape Business News
All indicators point towards Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) playing a growing role in the traditional litigation process in South Africa and organisations in both the public and private sectors need to gear up for the new legal paradigm. The new Court Rules on Mediation make mediation a compulsory step for all civil and commercial litigation. A pilot project will be introduced in the second quarter of 2012 at all high courts and in nine regional civil courts.
The King III Report on corporate governance places a fiduciary duty on management to consider the use of ADR, in particular mediation, before deciding to litigate. In addition, the Medium Term Strategy of the Department of Justice gives a clear indication that government intends applying mediation to reduce the backlogs in courts. Internationally, many of SA’s trading partners, as well as institutions such as the World Bank and International Finance Corporation, use and promote the use of mediation for resolution of commercial disputes, including investment-related ones.
In response to this, as well as a growing call from business to reduce the operational and financial risks of litigation, the Cape Chamber of Commerce will open the African Commercial Dispute Settlement Centre. The Centre will give organisations across the Continent the chance to make use of alternative forms of dispute resolution (primarily mediation and arbitration) to resolve disputes quickly and cost-effectively making use of a professional, efficient service and circumventing the burden of litigation.
The Centre is a partnership between the Cape Chamber of Commerce, the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement at Stellenbosch University Business School and Equillore, a leading provider of commercial dispute settlement services. Seed capital for the Centre comes from the Provincial Government of the Western Cape, Department of Economic Development and Tourism.
“The Cape Chamber believes that the Centre will have a significant impact on business in the region and will go a long way to assisting our businesses manage risk and operate confidently both locally and internationally,” says Viola Manuel, Executive Director of the Cape Chamber of Commerce.
Equillore will be functioning as the engine of the service and has managed more than 45 000 matters over its 12-year history. “The systems we have developed for the Centre make use of a multi-tier approach to conciliation, mediation and arbitration. It is uncomplicated, innovative and integrated with the civil justice system and the new rules of court. The electronic case management system will keep track of all events and exchanges of information and documents, and the Centre will provide parties with web-based access to case status and progress information,” explains Khanya Motshabi, Managing Director Equillore.
The Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement at Stellenbosch Business School contributes its expertise, development and research skills to ensure the rules, business processes and case management principles used at the Centre are, and continue to be in accordance with international best practice. The Cape Chamber, as a member of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) South Africa, has committed to benchmark its service to that of the ICC. This will ensure international credibility and allow it to open its doors to international organisations looking for a quality dispute resolution service on the Continent.
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