We pay tribute to our pro bono legal practitioners

We pay tribute to our pro bono legal practitioners

Welcoming the guests at the fourth annual awards ceremony, Chair of the Board Mohamed Randera explained that we approached things slightly differently this year. Instead of calling for nominations and submitting these to a judging panel in a competitive way, we chose winners from our list of over 85 legal practitioners who volunteered at our legal clinics and help desks and took on referred cases in 2016. We looked for those who had made an outstanding effort in the various areas of law that we deal with.

The event was held at The Social Kitchen, Exclusive Books, Hyde Park Corner on 7 September 2017, where the former Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan gave the keynote address. He remarked that ProBono.Org reminds us of the old activist structures in the ‘70s and ‘80s such as community advice offices, and that we should not leave organisations like ProBono.Org to chance but we should nurture them. The lawyers present represent the spirit of activism and the spirit of the integrity of the profession.


The delight and joy that clients receive from pro bono service is immeasurable and rare. Despite having a good Constitution, good laws and a modern society, transformation has been lagging behind. We have to address the state of inequality in our society. Solidarity with the poor is key, and the offer of pro bono assistance is a show of the calibre of the legal profession. Gordhan stressed the need to regenerate legal professionals, especially the younger ones, to participate in social justice initiatives.

The Master of Ceremonies for the event was Michael Motsoeneng-Bill, well known for his programme The Law Report, aired on Kaya FM on Wednesday evenings.

This year, ProBono.Org staff and interns all participated in the awards by presenting the winners with their prizes.

Click here for our complete October 2017 Newsletter, and more information on the awards ceremony, prizes and winners.

Congratulations to all the winners of the Pro Bono Awards on 7 September

Congratulations to all the winners of the Pro Bono Awards on 7 September

On Thursday 7 September 2017 the fourth Pro Bono Awards ceremony was held at The Social Kitchen at Exclusive Books in Hyde Park Corner.

There were 11 award categories, won by:

Refugee Law – Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Inc.
Housing Law – Sonkozi Ngalonkulu Attorneys
Estates Law – Mojelo Hlazo Attorneys
Community Advice Office – Ntsu Community Advice Office, Mabopane
Family Law – Riva Lange Attorney
Labour Law – Naledi Motsiri, Werksmans
Wills – Norton Rose Fulbright SA
Police Brutality – Candice Pillay, Hogan Lovells SA Inc.
Child Law – Suné Bosch, Ramsden Small Inc.
Advocate Award – Thulamela Group
Law Student at a University Law Clinic – Lutho Klaas, University of Fort Hare
Law Society of the Northern Provinces Award – Serialong Lebasa
Legal Aid South Africa Award – Khanyisa Ngobeni

In addition, there were several Director’s Special Mentions:

Clarks Attorneys – for their willing availability and commitment
Reg Joubert – for his support at the Divorce Help Desk and children’s matters
Claire Thomson – for drafting wills and presenting at community workshops
Susan Harris – for her many years of commitment to help desks, cases and events
Leana Elliot of Klopper Jonker Attorneys – for assisting at the Palm Ridge Help Desk and other pro bono work
Patrick Bracher of Norton Rose Fulbright SA  – for hosting the Pro Bono Law radio programme on Radio Today for the past 11 years
Baker & McKenzie – for doing pro bono work for ProBono.Org
Hoossen Sader – for his availability to take on family law matters

We congratulate all the winners and thank our generous sponsors for supporting this acknowledgement of invaluable pro bono work.


Radio Today – Sharon Ekambaram discusses the rights of refugees and asylum seekers

Radio Today – Sharon Ekambaram discusses the rights of refugees and asylum seekers

Our guest was Sharon Ekambaram, head of the Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme at Lawyers for Human Rights. She was discussing the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in terms of the White Paper on International Migration and the recent announcement of new permit regulations for Zimbabweans. Join Patrick Bracher for ProBono Law on alternate Thursdays at 18h30 (GMT+2), proudly brought to you by ProBono.Org and Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa. ProBono.Org actively increasing access to justice! Radio Today (@Radio2Day) broadcasts on 1485 MW (AM) in Johannesburg and countrywide on #DStv Audio Channel 869. Radio Today also streams globally on: www.1485.org.za and 1485.mobi. Radio Today! Radio that delivers!


Understanding the Constitution

Understanding the Constitution

By Koketso Molotsi, ProBono.Org intern


South Africa has one of the most inclusive Constitutions in the world, yet frequently ordinary people do not know the powers of the Constitution. It has recently been made more visible because of the well-publicised “Nkandla” case, which was heard in the Constitutional Court.

Even when people see the Constitution being put into practice, few people have a real understanding as to how it relates to them. A perfect example is Section 36 of the Constitution, which outlines the Limitation of Rights. The section provides that the rights in the Bill of Rights may be limited only to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors.

To illustrate, I will use a case regarding a deceased estate and its surviving heirs. J and B are brothers whose mother died intestate. J went to the Master’s Office to report the estate but falsified facts by saying he was the only surviving heir of his mother’s estate. He was then issued with Letters of Authority. Subsequently J transferred his late mother’s property to himself and then sold the property to a third party. B now seeks legal assistance to reverse the title back into his mother’s deceased estate.

The problem the court would be faced with is how to remedy the matter. Should the court reverse title back into the deceased’s estate? What happens to the innocent third party who bought the house from J? Does the third party seek restitution from J for fraudulently selling him the house? Does B claim his half share of the sale of the estate from J? All these scenarios are things clients may not take into consideration when seeking legal assistance or when they say with conviction that the Constitution protects them and that they have rights. It is good that there are discussions amongst ordinary people about the Constitution, but now the conversation needs to be taken to a higher level where people are no longer just scratching the surface. People need to be educated on how the Constitution works for them in their day to day lives, making them understand that while we all have rights which are protected by the Constitution, these rights are limited and that these rights cannot infringe on the rights of others.


ProBono.Org Durban says Thank you!

ProBono.Org Durban says Thank you!

By Petrina Chetty, ProBono.Org, Durban


Showing appreciation to attorneys, advocates and organisations is one of the events that the Durban staff looks forward to hosting. Not because we get to “glitter and glamour” on the day, but because we are able to give a little something back to those who go above and beyond to assist ProBono.Org and our clients.

This year, we held our second annual Appreciation Day event on 9 June at the AHA Waterfront Hotel. This occasion marks the growing success of our organisation. It is an opportunity for our staff to meet and greet some of the attorneys that we do not have an opportunity to work with. This year we were fortunate to be able to share the event with our Johannesburg colleagues.

The 2017 Appreciation Day event would not have been possible without our generous sponsors, some of which were Lexis Nexis, Juta, Sanlam, Urban Lime and Virgin Active. We were very honoured to have as our keynote speaker Professor David McQuoid- Mason of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the founder of the Street Law Programme. Professor Mason embodied the spirit of the event and came appropriately and amusingly dressed with a “Keep Calm and Do Pro Bono” t-shirt. As our Master of Ceremonies we had popular DJ Kevin Minter-Brown of Durban Youth Radio fame. The highlight of the event and the moment our guests waited in anticipation for, was the handing out of the Certificates of Appreciation. Some of the attorneys and firms that were recognised were Carol Holness from Norton Rose Fulbright SA for her continuous support and assistance for our refugee work, Kerry Forbes for helping us the most as an individual attorney, Tate, Nolan & Knight Attorneys who completed the highest number of pro bono hours for a medium firm and Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys, being the large firm that has assisted us the most. All in all, the event was a success. The guests walked away with goodie bags, full bellies and, hopefully, good


The Durban High Court Help Desk

By Sabastian Chetty, ProBono.Org intern, Durban

Durban-High-Court-Help-Desk-probono-orgThe help desk at the Durban High Court was established by ProBono.Org as part of a pilot project in April 2017 in partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society to fulfil their mutual vision to address the lack of access to justice for unrepresented people and communities appearing before the High Courts. The ultimate aim and objective of this partnership is to promote the right enshrined in section 34 of our Constitution, which gives everyone the right to access to courts. The idea for the project came from the Deputy Judge President of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Division of the High Court, the Honourable Justice Madondo.

Since its establishment, the help desk has assisted a number of disadvantaged people who would otherwise not have obtained the relief they desired. The growth of the desk is evident from the numbers of people we attend to, which is increasing daily. In June alone, 44 clients were seen. The desk deals with legal issues ranging from housing, evictions and consumer law to family law.

Many matters coming before the desk are of a family law nature, specifically dealing with urgent applications regarding children and their rights. These matters are given immediate attention due to their urgency, as they require an application to be brought or opposed in court within a very short period of time after the matter is brought to the desk. The challenges and pressure in these matters are overcome by the dedication of the advocates who are readily available to come to our organisation’s assistance in taking on the matters at short notice.

We hope that the commitment the volunteer attorneys and advocates have shown will continue and inspire other legal professionals to get involved in contributing to the vision of making justice accessible to all, irrespective of wealth or status.


Obituary: Nic Swart

Obituary: Nic Swart

Nic-SwartProBono.Org is saddened by the sudden passing of Nic Swart on 10 August in Botswana, where he was attending the SADCLA conference. Nic was the CEO of the Law Society of SA (LSSA) and the founder and director of Legal Aid and Development (LEAD), responsible for the professional training of attorneys. Since 2003, there has been an enrolment of 10 000 per annum at LEAD courses. Prior to serving in these two institutions he was a professor (extraordinary) at the University of Pretoria and a senior lecturer at the North West University law faculty. He also sat on a number of boards. He held BA LLB and B Com degrees from the University of Pretoria and UNISA, and was both an attorney, advocate and certified assessor, moderator and facilitator. In 2015 he was awarded the Lexis Nexis SA Rule of Law Award. May he rest in peace.


Women’s Day – 2 August 2017

Women’s Day – 2 August 2017

The ProBono.Org Johannesburg office hosted its annual Women’s Day on 2 August 2017. The event was attended by women from Orange Farm, Tembisa, Kagiso and our local clients. This year’s topic was Divorce, Mediation, Parenting Plans and Settlement Agreements, which was presented by our keynote speaker Advocate Veerash Srikison.

The more than 20 volunteer attorneys who attended the event held individual consultations with clients and received a presentation on Collaborative Practice in Divorces by Marissa Galloway-Bailey of the Collaborative Network. Further presentations for the community members present were given by the Teddy Bear Clinic, the Dobsonville Advice Centre, the South African Police Services and Street Law presenters from UNISA.

To make our Women’s Day even more memorable, Advocate Srikison facilitated the provision of gifts from Ackermans, Roman’s Pizza, Essay Magazine and Mama’s and Papa’s Magazine. Grateful thanks to our guest speaker and the NPOs, NGOs, volunteer attorneys, sponsors and the Johannesburg staff team for making this day a success.



By Tshenolo Masha


Refugee-ManualsAs part of commemorating and observing the plight of refugees and asylum seekers on World Refugee Day, ProBono.Org in partnership with Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyer, Fasken Martineau and Norton Rose Fulbright SA launched three Refugee Law Guides for Legal Professionals. The guides were developed by these three law firms to assist legal professionals to render pro bono services to refugees and asylum seekers. The keynote speaker at the launch was Judge Raylene Keightley who presided over the case of FAM vs the Minister of Home Affairs, where she delivered a judgment which obligated the Department of Home Affairs to apply procedural fairness to refugees as envisaged in the Constitution, and which is widely used as case law in review applications for asylum and refugee status. In her address the judge pointed out that South Africa’s commitment to the protection of refugees and asylum seekers did not only rest with the state but also with legal professionals in ensuring the country’s international obligations are applied to this vulnerable group, who in most instances do not have access to legal services. She highlighted that the principle of non-refoulement is the cornerstone of asylum and refugee law and that legal professionals are entrusted with ensuring that the law which provides protection to this vulnerable group is utilised. She also made a call for more professionals to get involved in this space. The manuals are available for download on our website.




probono-awards-2016-logoOnce again, on 6 September we celebrated the extraordinary work being undertaken by lawyers, the media, the NGO sector, students and others in promoting human rights and the interests of the poor and marginalised.

Not only did this third award ceremony mark great achievements, but it marked our 10th anniversary. And anniversaries are significant. Our 10th anniversary coincides with the 60th anniversary of the women’s march, the 40th anniversary of June 16 and the 20th anniversary of the Constitution. These are all significant events and we are proud to be able to place amongst them ourselves and the attorneys, advocates and others who do such important work.

This year’s guest speaker was Dali Mpofu SC, Vice-Chairperson of the Johannesburg Bar Council. He mentioned the new Legal Practice Act presently being implemented, where pro bono work is being addressed in the category of community service. Only a small percentage of South Africans can afford even the most basic legal services and without such services the values in our Constitution of equality, the rule of law and the restoration of human dignity cannot be realised. He added that if the profession gets the exercise right, it would go a very long way in addressing the present frustration experienced by the poor and economically disadvantaged, who are mostly black people, women and other economically vulnerable groups.

He also stressed the importance of all legal practitioners doing pro bono work and congratulated those who had been nominated as finalists. It was very pleasing to see a marked increase in the participation of small law firms in the awards this year.

Six independent judges chose the finalists and winners in each category:

  • Alice Brown, a human rights activist
  • Professor Jonathan Klaaren, Professor of Law at the Wits Law School
  • Clive Ramathibela-Smith, well known radio personality and businessman
  • Nomboniso Nangu, Director of the National Association for the Development of Community Advice Offices (NADCAO)
  • Nic Swart, CEO of the LSSA and LEAD
  • Jonathan Berger, an advocate of the High Court and a member of the Johannesburg Bar

Awards Finalists

    1. The most impactful case or initiative

L-R: Dali Mpofu, Liesl Williams, Moray Hathorn and Krevania Pillay (Norton Rose Fulbright SA)

      • Webber Wentzel – for the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the Helen Suzman Foundation in the matter of the failure of the South African government to arrest Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir when he visited the country in June 2015.
      • Hogan Lovells – for the police brutality legal clinic it runs in conjunction with ProBono.Org.
      • Norton Rose Fulbright SA– for the Arthurstone Village Community. The Amashangana Tribal Authority case which restored land to a community evicted by a tribal authority.

The winner was Norton Rose Fulbright SA



    1. Firm without a dedicated pro bono department
Dali Mpofu with Danjelle Midgley (Cullinan & Associates)

Dali Mpofu with Danjelle Midgley (Cullinan & Associates)

      • Cullinan & Associates, Cape Town – for an environmental case involving the rights of AmaPondo communities on the Wild Coast.
      • Garlicke & Bousfield, Durban – for their work with the ProBono.Org office in Durban.
      • David Masilela – for his work with community advice offices and at help desks, and training of practitioners on areas of law affecting poor and vulnerable people.

Congratulations to the winner, Cullinan & Associates.


    1. Firm with a dedicated pro bono department
L-R Dali Mpofu, Candice Pillay (Hogan Lovells), Sushila Dhever (Fasken Martineau), Tricia Erasmus (Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr)

L-R Dali Mpofu, Candice Pillay (Hogan Lovells), Sushila Dhever (Fasken Martineau), Tricia Erasmus (Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr)

      • Fasken Martineau – for the domestic violence, refugee and housing matters it took on in 2015.
      • Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr – for its work at the ProBono.Org Refugee Legal clinic and several high profile matters.
      • Hogan Lovells – for its partnership with Probono.Org at the Police Brutality Legal Clinic and its involvement in clinics dealing with the rights of women and children.

Fasken Martineau was the winner in this category



    1. The constitutionalism award
Niren Tolsi, Sipho Kings

Niren Tolsi, Sipho Kings

      This award went to media players who advanced social justice through their work. There were two winners in this category – freelance journalist Niren Tolsi , and Sipho Kings, environmental reporter for the Mail & Guardian.

Fasken Martineau was the winner in this category




    1. The advocate award
Dali Mpofu with Isabel Goodman

Dali Mpofu with Isabel Goodman

      • Isabel Goodman. Advocate Goodman appeared in the Al-Bashir matter mentioned above and acted for the Legal Resources Centre in a matter interdicting a mining company from entering community land and threatening people (part of a larger dispute relating to the attempt by an Australian mining company to mine titanium along the Wild Coast).
      • Donrich Jordaan. During 2015, he acted as counsel in a number of cases on a pro bono basis that involved cutting edge legal developments including the law on surrogacy.
      • Luke Kelly was selected for his outstanding contribution to the work of Corruption Watch over the last three years. In the EFF and DA cases against the National Assembly the powers of the Public Protector were clarified in what could be considered to be a landmark decision.

The winner was Isabel Goodman.


    1. The Juta award to a student at a university law clinic.
Lindie Hein, Ashley Seckel, Mikhaile Brookes

Lindie Hein, Ashley Seckel, Mikhaile Brookes

      This award celebrates the dedication and commitment of students in assisting poor and vulnerable people.

      • Mikhaile Brookes (Wits Law Clinic)
      • Lindie Hein (University of Pretoria law clinic)
      • Ashley Seckel (University of Johannesburg law clinic)

The award went to Ashley Seckel


    1. Legal Aid South Africa (LASA) award
Antonel Olckers, Brian Nair, Patrick Hundermark

Antonel Olckers, Brian Nair, Patrick Hundermark

      • LASA selected a pro bono practitioner or service provider that showed dedication and commitment to undertaking pro bono work for Legal Aid SA during 2015. The practitioner award went to Tsepiso Matubatuba.
      • The service provider award was given to DNAbiotec®, which offers Awards finalists a screening service to legal professionals for section 212(4) (a) affidavits containing DNA evidence. The firm formalised this into an official pro bono service for Legal Aid South Africa a few years ago.


    1. Law Society of the Northern Provinces Award
Juvon Prinsloo, Anthony Millar

Juvon Prinsloo, Anthony Millar

      • LSNP President, Anthony Millar, presented the LSNP award to Juvon Prinsloo, who has taken on pro bono matters enthusiastically since opening her own firm.






    1. National Director’s Special Mentions
Tshenolo Masha, Bricks Mokolo

Tshenolo Masha, Bricks Mokolo

    • Ngwako Raboshakga, coordinator of the Alexandra Law Clinic run by ENSafrica. This clinic offers an invaluable legal service to residents of Alexandra.
    • Bricks Mokolo for his work in the community advice office sector, particularly at the Orange Farm Human Rights Advice Centre .
    • Henk Strydom who spends many pro bono hours and days on emotionally draining children’s matters and has taken on almost 40 cases during the past four to five years.
    • Baitseng Rangata of Maponya Attorneys for the many hours of work undertaken for communities in and around Pretoria.
    • Jeff Phahlamohlaka of Bowman Gilfillan – for his legal clinics, outreach work and SMME development work.
    • Advocate Kate Hofmeyr, who has undertaken cases involving hate crimes and attempts to muzzle the press amongst many others.


Ngwako Raboshakga, Erica Emdon

Ngwako Raboshakga, Erica Emdon

Henk Strydom (centre) with his family

Henk Strydom (centre) with his family

Dali Mpofu with some of the ProBono.Org staff and friends

Dali Mpofu with some of the ProBono.Org staff and friends

NGO social justice stories

At this year’s awards, we launched a new initiative to highlight the work of NGOs doing significant social justice work. We have dedicated a page on our website to their stories and we invite you to visit NGO Links on the site and see the important work that they are doing, ranging from environmental activism, protection of abused women, the right to education and strategic litigation on human rights and the rule of law. We hope to add more of these stories on the page as time goes on.

Award sponsors

Our major sponsors this year were Legal Aid South Africa, the Law Society of the Northern Provinces and Juta.

Our other generous sponsors were Spoor & Fisher Attorneys and AJS Business Management Systems.

LexisNexis and without prejudice provided financial as well as inkind trade sponsorship. Auditors Grant Thornton once again audited the nomination and judging process.

Spier donated wine, and The Hill provided the venue free of charge.

Thanks also to the following service providers:

Michele Dean of Limeblue for the design work; Lloyd Piater of The Natural Agent for digital assistance, Freshly Minced for production assistance; and Yolanda van der Stoep for photography.