MASERU — The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), through its Civil Legal Reform Project (CLRP), is planning to introduce a mediation programme as a mechanism to resolve disputes outside the courts.
The MCA is a United States development agency.
The CLRP is a two-year programme launched in February this year that seeks to improve civil court operations.
It has already initiated the establishment of a Commercial Court that deals with business-related cases.
The court started full operations last month.
Now the CLRP is planning to implement a system of “mandatory court-annexed mediation” for the High Court, the Maseru Magistrate’s Court and the Commercial Court.
Samson Sempasa, chief-of-party of the International Law Institute – African Centre for Legal Excellence, said the programme was meant to speed up processes dealing with small claims without going through the courts.
“Our mandate is to intervene in the current situation of dealing with claims,” he said.
“We are aiming at resolving problems in a quicker, cheaper and more acceptable way to the people.”
Sempasa was addressing civic society and the media at a consultative meeting held at the High Court on Friday.
A Canadian specialist in court-annexed mediation processes, Rick Weiler, said the system enabled parties to tell their stories without any interference.
“In most cases, the session becomes emotional but the disputes are solved in a day or two, rather than going through a court process which might take a long time before the dispute is resolved,” he said.
Weiler, who has worked as a mediator for two years in Canada, said although the mediator has no authority to deliver judgment, he or she has to create an environment for the aggrieved parties to discuss and reach an agreement in their dispute.
“But sometimes they need to be accompanied by their lawyers for mediation,” he explained.
Weiler said the programme was called court-annexed mediation because the mediation process would be made in the court premises.
Sempasa said court staff were also expected to be used to facilitate the process.
“In this programme, the magistrates, registrars, judges’ clerks, judges and some of the practising lawyers would be used as mediators,” he said.
However, Sempasa said he could not specify the time when the programme would be fully implemented in Lesotho.
“But it will be before the end of the year because we have to train people first,” he said.
“This programme was introduced after discovering that even the pre-trial conferences in the High Court are not near achieving their objectives.”