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NHW Disputes

Yes, there are disputes in NHW's. It happens. 

Sometimes the disputes are between members or exco members and sometimes NHW's find themselves at cross purposes or loggerheads with local SAPS. So what can you do?


We spoke to Mike Hopwood, a trained mediator to get some insight into the options. 

Q. Mike what is a mediator?
A. A mediator is the quintessential middle man with no vested interest except to achieve resolution. Often egos and unspoken issues lie behind impasses and mediators are trained to help parties to work through those in group dialogue and one-on-one sessions. The obvious aim is to put an amicable solution on the table that is created by both parties and meets both of their needs. We all need a third perspective from time to time. 

Q. Is it normal for a Mediator to handle community disputes?
A. Oh definitely. It's not just South Africa either. Around the world mediation is seen as a precursor to legal actions and saves parties a lot of time and money as well as negative energy and focus. Disputes at any level can take quite a toll on people - particularly in communities where neighbors feel the need to take sides in things. Ultimately mediation isn't binding until there's a proposal on the table that everyone is happy with and willing to put pen to paper. So it's a total win-win situation really. 

Q. Is mediation expensive?
A. Well that depends what you're comparing it to I recon. If you compare mediation to litigation, well it's a hands down win to Mediating. Mediating a contractual dispute or divorce for example would cost around R 6000 for a half day session or R10 000 for a full day session. With that split between parties it's quite obvious that you couldn't even brief an attorney properly for that kind of money. Aside from the obvious resolution, mediation often restores the relationship between parties which courts seldom if ever achieve. 

Q. But can communities afford it?
A. Generally you'll find if it's something like a neighborhood watch dispute and the parties are willing to mediate, then you'll find a local guy that's qualified and will be willing to do it pro-bono (no charge) in the interests of better community relations. 

Q. So a mediator will make a decision for the parties?
A. Absolutely not. I have to be clear here. A mediator isn't there to decide what you should do. He's there to help the parties structure an agreement that suits them and originates with them. He may toss ideas in to stimulate the process but he's not there to make any ruling at all. If a ruling was being made, that would be Arbitration which is a different process. 

Q.Where do I find a mediator?
A. You can contact Dept. Community Safety and let them know you have a dispute and request a mediator be appointed by DCS, I would however strongly advise that both parties first agree to the mediation process before going in search of one. Online you'll also find plenty of very approachable mediators willing to assist or contact the UCT Law @work program for advice and direction.