INTRODUCTION

It is expected that the long awaited International Arbitration Act will be introduced in early 2016. This will remove the most formidable obstacle to the development of South Africa as a major regional arbitration centre, as the International Arbitration Act will adopt the UNCITRAL Model Law, which has a very high level of international acceptance and recognition. Werksmans is better placed than any other South African firm to introduce the new International Arbitration Act and the opportunities which it presents to our clients. We can make this claim confidently, for the following reasons –

  • We have unmatched depth of arbitration experience and expertise within the firm.
  • Through our international networks (including particularly the International Bar Association and the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce), we have developed an extensive international arbitration network and we are highly rated by the leading international publications.
  • We were founder members of the Arbitration Foundation of Southern Africa (“AFSA”) and continue to have a very close relationship with AFSA. We are proud to have been associated with AFSA in its development as the leading South African arbitration organisation.
  • We have been closely involved in, and supportive of, various initiatives designed to stimulate the growth and development of arbitration in South Africa, and of South Africa as an important regional arbitration centre. Those initiatives are now coming to fruition and our clients will increasingly seek our advice regarding arbitration as an alternative to commercial dispute resolution through the courts.

We have therefore established an arbitration practice group comprised of dispute resolution lawyers at every level within the firm. We intend keeping our clients informed of important developments, particularly as we move towards the introduction of a new International Arbitration Act. In this first (newsletter) we include notes on the following –

  • The three important cases, in recent years, which have contributed towards the creation of an arbitration friendly climate in South Africa and the recognition of the importance of the principle of party autonomy.
  • The recognition of both foreign and domestic arbitration awards.
  • The key differences between litigation and three major forms of alternative dispute resolution, namely, arbitration, mediation and expert determination.
  • Multi-tiered dispute resolution clauses, particularly in relation to construction and engineering disputes.
  • The Beijing Consensus and the development of China/Africa dispute resolution mechanisms.