One of the unexpected, successful outcomes of the national lockdown has been the resourceful way in which community schemes have engineered new processes, using available digital platforms to sustain productivity. CSOS Directives issued during the months of April to June 2020 encouraged the use of online platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and others to ensure the continuous functioning of schemes but the broader implication is that we are faced with new opportunities for resolving disputes in community schemes – welcome to the new normal.
In response to the CSOS decision to suspend walk-ins and the commencement of online conciliations and adjudications, key industry role players cautioned on the right of aggrieved parties to have fair representation. A major concern was that the lay man is not familiar with legal jargon and may be required to present a written submission in a manner befitting an advocate’s submission in high court – not so.
In the past three months the CSOS has been conducting conciliations and adjudications telephonically or using electronic platforms. Notably, adjudications are conducted based on papers filed by the parties and further written submissions, documents, and information (including evidence in the form of affidavits and photos) as requested by the appointed Adjudicator. The only CSOS proviso being that the written submissions are articulated clearly and logically. In both the conciliation and adjudication processes, the CSOS ensures that both parties are always consulted and that such is recorded.
Although the move to telephonic and electronic dispute resolution methods were precipitated by the pandemic, they have often worked so efficiently that they beg the question of whether this format can be inculcated going forward.
The newly appointed acting CSOS Adjudicator General, Mr. Mervin Dorasamy, certainly thinks so, “It is imperative that we as CSOS meet the need and expectations of our stakeholders and those who are undergoing real problems in community schemes. Many have sought relief by lodging dispute applications with CSOS. We have promised reliable affordable justice and they must experience just that. Service delivery and customer satisfaction must become a reality now more than ever, firstly, for those who wait on us and secondly, for our core staff seized with resolving disputes.”
Mervin is the Acting Adjudicator General charged with leading and quality assuring all CSOS orders. In this position he is responsible for developing and managing the implementation of CSOS Dispute Resolution processes (case management, investigations, conciliations, and adjudications) in line with the applicable legislative framework. He is accountable for quality assurance of all adjudication orders issued, ensures that legal research is conducted in accordance with the requirements of the relevant legislation and cases are recorded and catalogued, thereby developing the CSOS institutional knowledge. He is also the Regional Ombud for the KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Mpumalanga provinces. Prior to joining the CSOS, he practiced as an attorney and is a former Magistrate. As an admitted advocate, he served as legal representative and member of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and subsequently as principal legal counsel at the Competition Commission SA.