Sultan, as his name goes, is a great and admirable leader. He is one of the most prominent businessmen in Tanzania, owning a cement bag factory. Sultan lives in Mtumba, located in the south of Tanzania and is the Mukhi Saheb of Mtumba Jamatkhana, which has a Jamat of about 300 Ismailis. In his business dealings, Sultan came across Mahmoud, a fellow Ismaili businessman, who had just introduced a new machine that can produce 1000 cement bags every 10 minutes. The machine costed $20,000 and Sultan placed an order for five machines worth $100,000. The five machines were delivered and Sultan paid $50,000 to Mahmoud with a promise to pay the balance $50,000 upon installation and commissioning of the machines. Unfortunately, Tanzania was hit with an economic crisis, Sultan lost a lot of money and failed to pay Mahmoud. Two-years passed by and Mahmoud still had not been paid. With the lapse in time and due to his own financial position, Mahmoud decided to approach the Conciliation and Arbitration Board (CAB) for assistance to recover his money. In order to manage this matter, the CAB Chairman appointed Salima to be the Mediator.
Salima contacted Mahmoud as per the CAB process and explained him the following:
- The mediation process is Voluntary, hence if Sultan refuses to come to CAB to resolve the matter, then CAB would not be able to proceed with this mediation.
- The mediation process and discussions are Confidential, which requires Mahmoud not to disclose to anyone that he has approached CAB to enable him recover his money from Sultan.
- The mediator is Neutral and Impartial – sometimes characterized as multi-partial – this is a key component of a mediator’s role. All mediators know that they need to avoid being judgmental, not take sides, not jump in too quickly, not make decisions and not give advice. The mediator focuses on the process and issues at stake to enable the parties to arrive at a mutually agreeable outcome or a win-win situation.
- The mediation process is Without Prejudice, which means that the information provided or evidence given cannot be used in the Court of Law, neither can the mediator testify in court and nothing shall be taken as final unless a Mediated Settlement Agreement is signed and the parties having an option to seek independent legal advice. Once signed by the parties, the agreement is then enforceable in a Court of Law in the event of a breach by either party.
- The parties participating in a CAB mediation are expected to act in good faith with the intention of resolving the dispute amicably.
- Finally, that Mahmoud shall sign submission and personal forms which would allow CAB to begin the mediation process.
Mahmoud was pleased with the detailed briefing and agreed to submit to the CAB process. After all the formalities were completed, Salima took a brief explanation of the issue from Mahmoud and agreed to contact Sultan for the same.
In her call to Sutan, Salima explained all of the above, but in addition, being cautious of the fact that Sultan is a Mukhi Saheb, she requested to call him by his name and avoid the use of his title to promote equality and avoid getting biased. Sultan agreed to submit to CAB in order to resolve the dispute amicably. He requested Salima for some time to be able to reconcile his accounting records and revert back.
Sultan, being an honest businessman and a devoted murid, immediately approached Amin who was his Chief Accountant and is also an Ismaili who has served in various positions in the Jamat for 20 years. He requested Amin to accompany him to the Mediation, but Amin declined. When asked by Sultan, Amin said, “How dare CAB ask you to report to them for Mediation and doesn’t CAB only deal with divorces and family disputes? Why is Salima asking you to settle the financial issue with Mahmoud? Doesn’t she know that you are a Mukhi Saheb and that you have served the Imam for so many years?”
In reply, Sultan very calmly responded:
“Yes, I am a Mukhi Saheb, but in order to build Jamat’s trust and confidence in the CAB system, I must respect CAB’s invitation by attending this Mediation and being a role model so that the Jamat can learn from this and see that even a Mukhi is a murid at the end of the day and follows the Farman of Hazar Imam”.
“Yes, I have served the Imam in different capacities, hence I respect Salima and the mandate of the CAB. As you know, Hazar Imam has formed CAB precisely to assist parties in dispute to arrive at an amicable outcome internally. They too are serving the Imam and are appointed by the Imam to mediate disputes. Additionally, they are under oath and well trained to enable parties in disputes to arrive at a fair settlement”.
“No, CAB does not only mediate marital and family disputes. They mediate any dispute, be it matrimonial, domestic, commercial or family related, as long as a murid is involved and has an issue/ dispute that needs resolving”.
After this response, Amin had tears in his eyes, and felt very guilty for the ill-advice he gave Sultan and for being arrogant about not wanting to go to CAB to resolve the dispute. He quickly compiled all the documents and they both met Salima and Mahmoud at the CAB office for mediation.
The mediation was successful. Mahmoud admitted that he was late in delivering and installing the machines which led to Sultan losing business and immediately thereafter economic crises hit the country. Sultan also admitted that he owed Mahmoud $50,000 which he was ready to clear within a period of 12 months. Salima prepared a mediated Settlement Agreement that they both sent to their lawyers for Independent Legal Advice, and thereafter signed it.
Salima thanked both parties for attending and submitting to the mediation process and commended Sultan for being a great role model to the Jamat. Amin took it upon himself to educate the Jamat on the importance of resolving their disputes through CAB to avoid the lengthy, costly and tedious litigation process and that no matter what position one holds in the Jamati Leadership, he or she should not feel embarrassed to go to CAB when called upon to resolve a dispute. Salima also informed the parties about CAB’s work with regard to the monitoring and evaluation aspect that follows the signing of the settlement agreement. Monitoring relates to the mediator keeping in contact with the parties about the implementation of the agreement, whereas evaluation refers to the feedback sought from the parties to identify areas of service improvement by CAB. Both Mahmoud and Sultan kindly agreed to participate in evaluating CAB’s service and subsequently offered their ideas on improving CAB’s service to the Jamat.
Information contained in this article has primarily been sourced from the CAB’s mediation training and case experience.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions or wish to have more information on a particular subject relating to CAB’s work, please feel free to contact any CAB member. Our contact information has been placed on all Jamatkhana notice boards.