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A comparative analysis of the practice of family mediation with particular reference to African customary mediation.

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Family mediation is a process that' was and is still practised by African indigenous societies. However, mediation in relation to family and divorce matters, is viewed either positively or negatively by most South African writers mainly from a Western perspective. The recommendations made in this work focus, amongst other things, on what ought to be done by policy makers and exponents of mediation in order to make the ,benefits of mediation realised by South Africans particularly disadvantaged communities. The role of illiterate and semi-literate South African citizens)'is pointed out as being critical more in managing family disputes from disfunctioning the family and leading to marriage break-down than merely mediating the parting of ways and ancillary issues of marriage. The practice of family mediation and procedures followed by Africans when introducing the son-in-law to the daughter-in-Iaw's family and the protracted marriage negotiations between Umkhongi (emissary) and the in-laws are all indicative of the entrenched or mandatory approach to family mediation. The benefits of the peaceful ending of marriage relationship through third party interveners are highlighted in President Mandela's desire to terminate his marriage as 'painless as possible' particularly for the sake of children. It is pointed out in this work that the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert still adhere strictly to their tribal mediation procedures both in relation to family disputes and disputes in general. The tribe relies highly on korakoradue who is its senior citizen and respected elder, as resolver of community disputes. III The South African Justice Department brought hope when it worked toward introducing divorce mediation legislation. However, the vision was misdirected as the enacted family mediation legislation turned out to be constraining in its operation contrary to the recommendations by the Hoexter Commission. The majority of destitute South Africans who should be benefiting from this legislation end up not knowing about the existence of the Act and/or not making use of it because of the costs involved as only the Supreme Court can adjudicate upon matters covered by the Act. The lack of research which focuses on local mediation styles makes it difficult to justify, for example, either Mrs. Mandela's claim when she said ,Mr. Mandela had not answered to the 'African Cultural and Traditional Inkundla' or Mr. Mandela's defence that he respects customs but is not a 'tribalist' as he 'fought as an African Nationalist with no commitment to any tribal custom'.


Thesis (LL.M.)-University of Durban-Westville, 1997.


Customary law--South Africa., Family mediation--South Africa., Theses--Law.