Process for establishing a Professional Body for Dispute Resolution Practitioners

In 2016 DiSAC and NABFAM took a joint decision that a professional body for dispute resolution practitioners should be established under the existing SAQA framework that governs professional bodies. This was again debated in 2019, and the decision was reconfirmed. A more detailed motivation for this decision is set out here.

DiSAC and NABFAM have set up a joint Steering Committee to take this work forward. The Steering Committee has explored various options for taking this initiative forward.

In July 2020 the Steering Committee called a general stakeholder meeting to debate the way forward. The meeting unanimously reconfirmed the mandate to establish a professional body, and again mandated the Steering Committee to take the work further.

The Steering Committee has developed substantial proposals for a process to establish a professional body. At the end of 2020 this proposal was widely shared with stakeholders, who were asked to comment. The Steering Committee has reviewed this feedback, and has now shared a revised process with all stakeholders (available here).

In essence the process will consist of the following steps:

STEP 1 – Complete application process for founding membership of the professional body

Stakeholder organisations will be invited to apply for membership of the (to be established) professional body, and all applying organisations who meet the criteria will be confirmed as founding members of the (to be established) professional body.

Founding membership be available to any organisation that (i) supports the process for establishing a professional body, and (ii) who represent a minimum of 20 dispute resolution practitioners (mediators, facilitators, arbitrators).

STEP 2 – First meeting of the Members’ Council

The Members’ Council will consist of one representative from each founding member, and will effectively act as the “shareholders’ meeting” of the organisation. The first meeting of the Members’ Council will be called as soon as the membership application process is completed.

The order of business for the first meeting of the Members’ Council will be to

  • Consider and finalise the Memorandum of Incorporation (MoI) for the to be established professional body.
  • Elect the founding Board members (in accordance with the approved MoI); and
  • Instruct founding Board to register the NPC Company.

STEP 3 – The Elected Board must begin its work

After the Members’ Council meeting the elected Board must take steps to formally register the not for profit company and co-opt additional board members.

The Board must then begin to execute is broad mandate (as set out in the MoI) to develop and establish a professional body for dispute resolution practitioners. This will include:

  • Taking all the necessary steps to establish a fully functional professional body
  • Indicating how professional standards and professional designations will be formulated
  • Developing the various classes of professional membership of the organisation
  • Defining the criteria for designating specific practice areas as professions (such as commercial mediation, and family mediation, labour mediation).
  • Taking the necessary steps to have the professional body as well as the designated professions registered with SAQA
  • Taking all steps necessary to implement the above, including raising funds and contracting with service providers.

The Board will be required to provide quarterly updates to the Members’ Council, who can exercise their rights as members if they are not satisfied with the work of the Board. Any major developments that involve an amendment of the MoI will have to be approved by the Members’ Council.


The following documents are also available for download:

Copy of the Stakeholder Communication _ May 2021

Article – Professionalizing Dispute Resolution Practice