Tomorrow (Wednesday, 15 April), the Christian owners of “House of Bread” guesthouse in Wolseley will be meeting with the homosexual couple who took them to Court for unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation last year, in an endeavour to mediate the dispute. (For more details about the case, see link to an earlier article here – http://forsa.org.za/christian-guest-house-owners-ask-court-for-an-opportunity-to-conciliate-with-homosexual-couple/)

The mediation process follows a ruling by the Bellville Equality Court on 17 June 2014, to the effect that it is in the interest not only of the particular parties involved in the dispute, but in the interest of building a bridge of mutual respect and acceptance between the broader gay and lesbian community on the one hand and the Christian faith community on the other, that the dispute be mediated. The Court thus postponed the case sine die (indefinitely, without setting a date) for purposes of mediation.

In addition to the parties themselves, the mediation will be attended by representatives of the following organisations (who will attend merely as observers, not as participants): the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) who has been acting as the legal representatives for the homosexual couple; Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) who is the First Amicus Curiae in the matter and who (successfully) brought the application for mediation; as well as the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) who is the Second Amicus Curiae in the matter.

The mediation process

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution i.e. alternative to having the matter decided by Court. The purpose of mediation proceedings is not to determine who is right and who is wrong (as would happen in Court or arbitration proceedings), but rather to create a safe environment for parties to find a solution to the dispute themselves.

The role of the mediator is therefore not to decide the matter, but to facilitate discussion between the parties with a view to helping them find an amicable resolve.  The mediator remains impartial throughout the proceedings, and works equally hard for both parties. While he/she may assist the parties to generate settlement options, he/she does not impose his/her views or solutions on them.

(In this instance, the parties have agreed to appoint Advocate Jacques Joubert, an accredited mediator with a successful mediation practice in the Western Cape, as an external mediator.)

Mediation is voluntary and any party may at any stage decide not to continue with the mediation. Mediation is furthermore a “without prejudice” process, meaning that parties retain all their rights and legal remedies if the mediation is not successful.  (What this practically means in this instance is that, should mediation not be successful, the matter will in all likelihood return to the Bellville Equality Court who will then have to decide who is right and who is wrong).

Call to prayer

In anticipation of Wednesday’s mediation, Steph & Marina Neethling, owners of “House of Bread” guesthouse in Wolseley, have commented as follows: “We know that nothing that we say or do in the flesh, will have any power or influence. Our prayer is that we will be Jesus’ mouth and that we will only speak words that are His words, for then God will stamp our words with His authority. We also pray for everyone who will participate in the mediation proceedings, in particular for the mediator himself.”

PLEASE PRAY FOR THE MEDIATION PROCEEDINGS THAT WILL START AT 10:30 ON WEDNESDAY MORNING.