April 21, 2020
CONFLICT IN CHAOS: MEDIATION IN THE AGE OF COVID-19
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, South African Courts announced directives which introduced measures to curb the spread of the virus. These measures restrict access to courts to those matters of the utmost urgency.
The impact of the global pandemic on business and the economy in general has and will continue to result in instability, volatility and fear. This combination of factors inevitably generates conflict which, in the current climate, may well escalate as a result of the uncertainty of the crisis. The present challenges offer a perfect opportunity to consider mediation to resolve conflicts arising from commercial partnerships particularly where preservation of those relationships in the long term is critical.
Mediation has long been recognised as an effective and efficient alternative dispute resolution method. Recent amendments to the Rules of Court which introduced court aligned mediation in South African Courts were welcomed by many who understand and recognise the benefits of a mediated resolution to a dispute both locally and internationally. Significantly, mediation is not industry specific and may be used as a method to resolve any form of dispute or conflict. Mediation may also be utilized effectively to support decision making processes to prevent disputes or to manage risks. The global COVID-19 pandemic has added several dimensions which increase the need for collaborative decision-making with win-win results which mediation can assist parties achieve. As neither the duration of the current crisis nor the long-term effects are known, remaining flexible and thinking long-term are essential.
Unlike litigation, mediation can be conducted in the online environment which is a critical consideration during this period when isolation, social distancing and working from home are imperative to the wellbeing of all. Mediated disputes in the online environment may be conducted using methods which best suit clients including Zoom conferencing, Skype, video conferencing via WhatsApp or phone.