<strong>Durban’s</strong> Appreciation Day

Durban’s Appreciation Day

Legal practitioners and stakeholders with whom we work gathered at the IIE’s Varsity College Durban North on Friday 26 April for our annual Appreciation Day event. This event is held to give recognition and thanks to legal practitioners who have made an exceptional contribution in rendering pro bono legal services to those who cannot afford them. It is heartwarming to see that despite no formalised rule from the Legal Practice Council making it compulsory to undertake a specified number of pro bono hours as yet, legal practitioners who are committed to a transformed and better society for all have continued to do so. These dedicated practitioners are to be commended and it is to be hoped that they will inspire others to emulate them.

Our keynote speaker was the esteemed Professor Karthy Govender who gave a thought-provoking talk. Amongst other things, he spoke about pushing back against the globilisation of indifference and assisting without getting something in return, which many attendees described as inspiring.

An event like this can never be a success without our kind and generous sponsors, which included IIE’s Varsity College Durban North, The Image Factor, Farrell Inc., Isibani Chartered Accountants and Auditors, Durban Property Finance, Virgin Action | Collection, PPS and Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, to name a few. A huge thank you goes out to all of them!

 

Click here for our complete June 2019 Newsletter

Welcome to our 2019 Joburg interns

Welcome to our 2019 Joburg interns

We are very pleased to be able to report that our 2018 interns were all offered articles with law firms and with Legal Aid South Africa.

Here are the new intakes for 2019 together with volunteer Zandi Mahlangu. We hope they have a rewarding and interesting time with us and that they will carry with them a passion for pro bono work and assisting the less fortunate.

 

Muchengeti (Chengi) Hwacha

Chengi comes from a long line of legal professionals. His grandfather was one of Zimbabwe’s first post-colonial black judges and his father is a founding partner of one of Zimbabwe’s top law firms. Following in the family’s footsteps Muchengeti completed an LLB at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (PMB). He has supplemented this qualification with Certificates from the University of the Witwatersrand in Intellectual Property Law and Banking and Financial Markets Law.

His first experience with ProBono.Org was as a volunteer at the Divorce Court help desk at the Johannesburg Family Court in August 2018. He was then brought on as an intern in the Child Law department in January 2019. He has had experience in public interest law, volunteering for organisations such as the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Africa, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Constitutional Literacy and Service Initiative (CLASI). During his tenure at ZLHR, where he worked on electoral law reform research, he developed a strong passion for activism on electoral issues. He developed this into a campaign for diaspora voting rights in Zimbabwe.

Listen to an interview he gave on the topic for Cliff Central Radio here

 

 

Phindile Cele

Phindile Cele was born in KwaZulu-Natal and completed her LLB degree at the University of South Africa in 2018.

She is currently doing a Master’s degree in Family Law. Before completing her degree she volunteered at Mason Attorneys doing vocational work; volunteering there was confirmation for her that she had chosen the right career path. She applied for an internship at ProBono.Org to gain exposure to various areas of law and help the less privileged. She has a passion to educate, which is a way of giving back to society; to ensure that the statement “justice for all” is not just a narrative to those who cannot afford legal services. “I am looking forward to learning and mastering the areas of law ProBono.Org specialises in, but mostly I hope to make an impact on the lives of those who need legal assistance”, she says. Phindile worked at the University of South Africa as a post-graduate student assistant for two years, assisting academics with research and admin work. “Working at UNISA exposed me to career opportunities available in the academic environment, and after I am admitted as an attorney I would love to pursue a career as an academic, specialising in family law.”

 

 

 

Mukhethwa Chauke

Mukhethwa was born and raised in Venda (Limpopo) and, like many people, moved to Gauteng to pursue tertiary education. He completed his LLB degree at the University of South Africa in 2018. He participated in the street law programme at university and was exposed to community work, where he realised that he is a social justice warrior. In 2018 he had an opportunity to volunteer at ProBono.Org in Johannesburg and was excited to be working in a legal environment for the first time. “Working with people from marginalised and under-privileged communities who have sensitive legal matters is something I have grown an intense interest in. I believe pro bono work should be a mandatory requirement for all legal practitioners.

 

Click here for our complete April 2019 Newsletter

Reflections from our Interns

We asked our interns to give us feedback on their experiences at ProBono.Org. Here is what some of them had to say:

Molebogeng Manyako

I joined the Joburg office of ProBono.Org as an intern on 15 January 2018. I am working under the supervision of the head of the Family Law, Labour Law and Wills department.

My experience at ProBono.Org has really challenged me and kept me very busy. I consult with clients and their Family Law matters on Mondays and Thursdays. On Wednesdays I assist with clients’ documents at the Family Law legal clinic at the office.

What I enjoy most is going to the Family Court every Tuesday to assist at the divorce help desk with consultations, drafting summonses and settlement agreements. Through this I have managed to gain confidence and say no where necessary.

I have sometimes encountered difficult clients, as well as the sweetest. I enjoy working with the Wills clients, especially the elderly as they always appreciate our assistance when they come to collect their Wills.

The road has not always been easy and sometimes I have even shed a tear. I have enjoyed working with attorneys and advocates from different firms and groups. One of my biggest highlights was when Advocate Hugh Mbatha told me that I am going to be a good lawyer one day. These words really humbled and encouraged me.

 

 

Akhona Mthembu

My journey at ProBono.Org.

As I look back on my days with ProBono.Org, I started off in 2015 as a volunteer at the Durban office. I remember the very first help desk I assisted at, which was Housing. It shook me. I came away very emotional as I had listened to the story of an elderly lady who was being evicted from her own house. It had been transferred to her son fraudulently and she was responsible for three of her grandchildren, who were all receiving child support grants. She herself was also receiving a government pension.

The thought of her and her grandchildren not having shelter not only touched me, but made me determined that one day I would be at ProBono.Org as an intern, so that I too could begin my journey of giving back to those less fortunate.

I started as an intern on 8 January 2018, and soon realised that being an intern is very different from volunteering. At my first three help desks we assisted more than 30 clients. Through this I gained vast knowledge about the law, as practice and theory have aspects that are different. I learnt that I would need to learn to link and apply what I had learnt to practice, in order to solve clients’ issues. I have also had good experiences and relationships with other ProBono.Org staff members. We have taught each other a lot about the law and life itself.
The entire experience has given me a new and broader outlook on life, the importance of assisting the less fortunate, on ethics, morals and the legal profession.

 

 

Zunaid Latief


Upon graduating with a law degree from the University of the Western Cape at the end of 2016, the harsh reality was that I had failed to secure employment in my field of study and had no alternative but
to explore other interim avenues in order to support my immediate family.

After months of drifting in mediocrity, I received an email from the HCI Alumni Programme, informing me that I had been shortlisted for an interview under the Legal Internship Programme between ProBono.Org Cape Town and the HCI Foundation. The interview proved successful and I commenced employment with ProBono.Org on 2 April 2018.

Initially I felt overwhelmed and slightly doubted my ability and legal knowledge. However, after a couple of months and with the mentorship and encouragement of my colleagues, the development of my skillset was evident and I gained a lot more confidence. I was exposed to many different aspects of the legal profession and I looked forward to learning on the job on a daily basis.

The Legal Internship Programme has allowed me to grow exponentially, both as a person and as a professional. It has equipped me with the necessary tools and skills to pursue a successful career as a legal practitioner. More importantly, it has placed me in a position where I can continue the theme of giving back to society.

This opportunity has served as a rude awakening to the harsh realities that ordinary South Africans have to endure. The brutal truth is that people from disadvantaged communities quite simply cannot afford the services of an attorney or advocate; and access to justice is a mere illusion for many. However, it has ignited a flame inside of me and spurred on my passion for social justice, which is what I believe I will really take away from this internship.

As my time with ProBono.Org draws to an end, I cannot properly express my gratitude to the organisation for providing me with this opportunity. My legal knowledge has increased tenfold and my personal development has been significant. While I still have lots to learn regarding this profession, I am confident that this internship has done enough to secure me employment in the future.

 

 

Click here for our complete February 2019 Newsletter

The dead man’s property

The dead man’s property

By Neliswa Ncama, Durban intern

The passing of a loved one is one of the most challenging experiences that a family has to face. After a funeral, they are left to pick up the pieces and figure out how to proceed after this tragedy. The family would have to begin the process of winding up the estate by reporting the death to the Master of the High Court. A number of issues may arise at this point; one of them being the transfer of the property once the estate has been wound up.

A conveyancer is needed to handle the transfer of the property so that the ownership of the property vests in the heir. In theory, this may seem to be the sensible approach considering the complexity of transfer matters. However, it is hard for the poor and marginalised to be able to afford these services, as conveyancers’ costs are just too high. In the event that the family is able to raise the money to pay a conveyancer, or organisations such as ProBono.Org are willing and able to assist with this transfer, the family is still faced with the challenge of ensuring that utilities and rates are paid up to date, in order to receive a clearance certificate before transfer can take place.

ProBono.Org is only able to assist in matters where the value of the estate is below R250 000 and where the client is able to pay the disbursement costs, which would include transfer costs required by the Deeds Office. In the instance that someone is unable to access pro bono services, they would also be required to pay the costs of a private attorney. While the rationale is that the estate will cover such costs, the reality is that often the only asset in the estate is the house that needs to be transferred. Payment arrangements may also be made with a private attorney, but this just means that the process may take years to complete.

These expenses are the reason why many families do not have title deeds to a property. Without them, the family may still have security of tenure (or rights in the property) but these are incomplete as the heir/s are still unable to fully exercise their rights. If the heir is unable to get the property transferred, issues such as encroachment of property, payment of utilities and the ability to evict others from the property are difficult, and sometimes. impossible, for the heir to deal with, as proof of ownership is required.

The time has come when the Deeds Office needs to cater for the poor, who make up the majority of our population. The Deeds Office should put in place systems to assist a lay person with the transfer of property. Many other government institutions allow a lay person to transact on their own. An example of this is where the Master’s Office allows a lay person to report a deceased estate valued below R250 000, without requiring them to appoint an attorney. This is a massive cost saving for a poor person. Alternatively, there should be some sort of government subsidy or loan that families in this position could apply for in order for property rights to be attained by the most vulnerable in society. The death of a loved one should not be the reason why a family’s dignity is compromised and puts them in a situation where they do not own their own home.

Click here for our complete December 2018 Newsletter

Events and work with SMME’s

Events and work with SMME’s

By Swazi Malinga.

ProBono.Org generally provides legal assistance on corporate governance to young aspiring entrepreneurs, business start-ups and SMMEs by referring their requests for assistance to law firms who have volunteered their services on a pro bono basis. We assist clients with an annual turnover of less than R1million.

Because many of these business owners lack the basic knowledge of what the law requires of them when operating their businesses, we tend to spend a lot of time explaining and providing a crash course in commercial law.

In response to this we hosted an SMME seminar on 7 September at Constitution Hill together with Stevens Attorneys, which addressed The Companies Act, Insolvency Law and Commercial Contracts. The 56 participants ranged from owners of start-ups, established entities and spaza shops.

Since 2015 ProBono.Org has run an SMME help desk called YAKHA ISIZWE, based in Soweto, which is a collaboration with Fasken Attorneys and the University of Johannesburg Centre for Entrepreneurship. The objective of this help desk is to provide the services of attorneys to a wide range of businesses, including spaza and tuckshop owners, business women, hawkers, bed and breakfast establishments and hair and beauty salons. The attorneys assist with drawing up service level agreements, lease and finance agreements, as well as advising on appropriate forms of entities to register and providing education and training on commercial law.

To create more awareness about the help desk we hosted an Entrepreneurship Fair on 27 September 2018 together with Fasken and the University of Johannesburg. A young female entrepreneur who owns an online pre-owned clothing business was the guest speaker. A panel consisting of a labour attorney from Fasken, the SA Revenue Service, E-Squared and the CIPC provided information and advice to the participants.

Our goal for 2019 is to have a weekly clinic for SMMEs that will operate at our head office.

 

Click here for our complete October 2018 Newsletter

Phumi Ngenelwa Celebrating 10 years with ProBono.Org

Phumi Ngenelwa Celebrating 10 years with ProBono.Org

Phumzile (Phumi) Ngenelwa is the Office Manager at ProBono.Org. On 1 July she celebrated her ten-year anniversary with the organisation.

She came from the firm CA Schoeman Attorneys in Northcliff, where she worked for two years as a filing clerk, later becoming an administrator. She heard about ProBono.Org through one of her colleagues, who heard there was a vacancy for a receptionist and passed on Phumi’s CV. She got the job and started on 1 July 2008.

At that time there were only 4 members of staff and the organisation was situated in Schreiner Chambers in Pritchard Street. Phumi was a jill of all trades at the time, making tea, cleaning and doing reception duties.

When ProBono.Org moved to Constitution Hill in 2009 Phumi took on the job of administrator, maintaining a database and undertaking simple bookkeeping, scheduling appointments for attorneys and providing clients with information and providing statistical reports.

Phumi’s duties later expanded still further to providing staff training on in-house systems and programmes, maintaining personnel files and leave, making travel arrangements, sending out newsletters and invitations and advertising vacant posts, among many others.

Phumi feels that hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed and her many promotions are evidence of this. During her time with the organisation Phumi has also furthered her studies and has a bookkeeping diploma and personnel management certificate.

She now mentors and guides the staff of over 28 permanent staff, and is particularly relied on and loved by our interns. Congratulations Phumi. Here’s to the next ten years. What would we do without you?

 

Click here for our complete August 2018 Newsletter

ProBono.Org Durban’s Appreciation Day 2018

ProBono.Org Durban’s Appreciation Day 2018

By Shamika Dwarika

 

The Durban office of ProBono.Org hosted its third annual Appreciation Day on 20 April at Howard College, University of KwaZulu-Natal. The occasion is an opportunity for us to thank the attorneys who have given generously of their services on a pro bono basis, as well as expressing our  gratitude to some of our partners. Several legal practitioners received certificates for their outstanding pro bono work. Mr Ravin Jankhi, the storyteller MC, got into the spirit of the event and rendered his services on a pro bono basis. The event saw the Judge President of the KZN High Court, Judge Jappie, give a motivational keynote address. The main sponsor for this year’s event was LexisNexis.

 

Click here for our complete June 2018 Newsletter

Mediation at ProBono.Org

By Swazi Malinga.

 

As part of our service to the community, we offer pro bono mediation. We have a panel of qualified and dedicated mediators who are readily available to assist our clients. In the family law context, we offer mediation to parents of minor children, often parents who are not married to each other, who cannot decide on a workable co-parenting arrangement. A mediator tries to assist them to enter into an agreement that they are happy with and that will promote the best interests of their minor child. The parenting plan will deal with the care and contact of the child, which will include visitation schedules and primary residence, and in some instances the parents may even agree on the religion the child should follow. An important factor is that of maintenance, which is often an issue in dispute between parents. To clients getting divorced, we offer mediation of settlement agreements which will also incorporate a parenting plan. This allows the divorcing parents to decide and negotiate their own terms and conditions.

Mediation can be challenging because many people still believe that going to court is the best and only way of resolving disputes. Some clients do not regard mediation as a legal process, do not take it seriously, and fail to turn up on the day of the mediation session. Our task therefore also entails creating awareness about the importance and benefits of mediation. We conduct workshops in communities to explain that mediation is much cheaper and has the ability to resolve disputes speedily, rather than engaging in lengthy and costly litigation. However, our problems don’t end there, as we also face some degree of resistance from our colleagues in the legal profession, who may be representing the other party, and reject a suggestion of mediation as they fear losing out on their fees. We are pro mediation, as it provides a safe ground for the parties and all discussions that take place during the sessions are confidential and thus cannot be used in a court of law save for the final written agreement by the parties. We are mindful that not all disputes can be mediated, but feel that clients should be offered this option. If more legal practitioners encourage mediation, more clients and the community at large will take mediation seriously and regard it as an effective alternative dispute resolution.

 

Click here for our complete June 2018 Newsletter

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By Elsabe Steenhuisen.

In short, the answer is “yes”. The reasoning, with reference to case law, follows below.

1. What does the Common Law state?

The Common Law position is that children below the age of seven are infans and cannot act. A curator or a guardian has to act on behalf of the child. If children are over the age of seven, but under 18, they must be assisted either by a curator or their guardian. If the guardian is not available, the court must appoint a curator on motion proceedings.

2. Did the case law change this position?

Yes, by a gradual process, which is still developing. In 2000, in the Christian Education South Africa case, the court held that in a case concerning children, their “actual experiences and opinions would not necessarily have been decisive, but they would have enriched the dialogue, and the factual and experiential foundations for the balancing exercise in this difficult matter would have been more secure.”

In 2003 in the Soller case the court appointed a legal representative for the child, to whom the child gave instructions directly and without assistance of a guardian or curator ad litem.

In 2008 the court in the Pillay case remarked that the need for the child’s voice to be heard is perhaps even more acute when it concerns children mature for their age, who should be increasingly taking responsibility for their own actions and beliefs.

In 2009 the Legal Aid Board acted for a 12 year old girl. The court ruled that the Board did not need to obtain consent of either the court or the child’s guardian to represent a child. This was confirmed further in 2011 by the Supreme Court of Appeal when the Board acted in the Four Children case, and in 2012 in the Brossy case.

3. What does the legislation require?

The Child Justice Act merely requires “a parent/guardian/other suitable person” to assist child offenders who instruct their legal practitioners themselves. The Children’s Act allows representation of a child without a guardian. Some magistrates in the Children’s Courts require an application by the legal practitioner to allow the child to be represented. The Divorce Act allows the court to appoint a legal practitioner to represent a child at the proceedings and may order the parties or any one of them to pay the costs of the representation.

Section 28(1)(h) of the Bill of Rights provides that: “Every child has the right to have a legal practitioner assigned to the child by the state at state expense, in civil proceedings affecting the child, if substantial injustice would otherwise occur”. In the Van Niekerk case in 2005 the Centre for Child Law was allowed to apply ex parte for the appointment of a legal representative in terms of s28(1)(h) for two girls, without their guardian’s consent. ProBono.Org agrees with the Centre for Child Law that this section does not preclude registered legal organisations to secure legal representation for children. Section 28(1)(h) does not give the state exclusive rights in this respect.

In conclusion, if any person (who qualifies in terms of the means test) approaches ProBono.Org for assistance, we will obtain representation without the guardian’s permission, and if necessary the legal practitioner will obtain the court’s permission to act on behalf of the child, because we interpret the current state of the law as not to limit a child’s right to legal representation. We acknowledge Professor Ann Skelton of the Centre for Child Law, who dealt with this issue during a ProBono.Org breakfast on 18 October 2017, and thank her for the notes she made available for use by ProBono.Org. Full case references are available on request.

 

Click here for our complete June 2018 Newsletter

Probono.Org Durban: eThekwini Youth Employability Indaba & KZN Career Expo

Probono.Org Durban: eThekwini Youth Employability Indaba & KZN Career Expo

ProBono.Org Durban was fortunate to be able to participate at the eThekwini Youth Employability Indaba & KZN Career Expo at the ICC. The three day expo is being held for the youth to attend to increase the level of youth participation in the mainstream economy. The expo enabled ProBono.Org to showcase the opportunities and services we offer. Here are some pictures of the event from the 23 May 2018.