Source: (1999) African Journal in Conflict Resolution. No. 1.

In the domain of law, and elsewhere, 'alternative' dispute resolution can be used in more than one way. It may signify a recognition that there are other methods than litigation, and that these may sometimes be more appropriate. But it may also serve as a label for methods which are frowned upon as popular but amateurish. This article is written from the perspective that the deep roots and valid reasons for traditional conflict resolution methods and customs should be taken seriously. They form part of time-proven social systems, in which the objective is usually more than just settling a case. Such methods, whether they include more adjudication or more mediation, are especially oriented towards reconciliation and the maintenance or even improvement of social relationships. Representative examples from a few South African societies are discussed, as well as the current situation of Western and customary law, modern courts and tribal courts, legal professionals and traditional leaders. Possibilities for the future are pointed out, in an increasingly urbanised South Africa, but a South Africa with a new Constitution.