Kick-starting mediation at UCT

08 November 2010

UCT has taken four important steps towards institutionalising mediation as a means of resolving disputes at the university.

In late 2009 Senate and Council approved a policy on mediation (this can be found on the UCT website), which set up the institutional framework to promote mediation as a normative way of resolving disputes. The champion of mediation was envisaged to be the university Ombud.

The second event was the appointment (at the beginning of September) of Glenda Wildschut to the position of director of Transformation Services, a position that co-ordinates transformation activities, including events of an educational and mediatory nature. This appointment consolidates the link between mediation and transformation.

The third event is the appointment from 2011 of Zetu Makamandela-Mguqulwa as the UCT Ombud, a designated neutral or impartial dispute-resolution practitioner whose major function is to provide confidential and informal assistance to members of the university community - both students and staff.

The fourth event was the training of 26 mediators drawn from the UCT staff, conducted by Professor Barney Jordaan of the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement earlier this year. UCT now has an in-house resource of mediators in most faculties and divisions who can be called on for the implementation of the mediation policy.

The challenge now is to raise consciousness about the availability of and support for mediation. There is much confusion about mediation, and many still see it as a judgment-making process like arbitration. Mediation is an agreed process, entered into voluntarily, in which independent mediators assist participants who are in dispute to reach a settlement of that dispute. Mediation is a separate process from the grievance procedure, and aims to move away from adversarial procedures and resolve issues as early as possible.

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