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.
We are delighted to announce the appointment of Michelle Odayan as the National Director of ProBono.Org as from April 2018. She is a nonpractising Advocate of the High Court of South Africa (BA.LLB), a social entrepreneur and the co-founder of the Indiba–Africa Group, a human and rights centered development practice. Her personal and professional life is anchored around values-based leadership and an ethical rights, responsibilities and social justice discourse.
Michelle has substantive experience working with government, the private sector and civil society stakeholders on a wide range of cross cutting social and economic capacity building interventions, business and human rights integration, skills development and technological advancement. Over the past 25 years she has led diverse teams and was accountable for multimillion rand development project portfolios supported by international donor and government investments.
Michelle has skills and experience in board governance, strategy and policy development, executive management, programme design, total impact monitoring and evaluation, resource mobilisation and capacity development. She has worked in the fields of Business and Human Rights, Employment and Equality Law, Gender and Women’s Rights, Local Economic Development, Skills Planning and Development, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainable Development, Access to Justice and Rule of Law, Democracy and Governance, and in Alternative Dispute Resolution. Since 2000, she was instrumental in the planning and execution of public private partnership projects that were critical for the transformation of the South African justice system and is considered one of a handful of justice sector reform practitioners in Africa.
She has held formal positions with ACCORD, Olive OD&T, Business Against Crime (BACSA), Agenda Feminist Media and the National Centre for State Courts (USA). She is actively involved in a variety of professional associations, holds several Board directorships and is a fellow of the African Leadership Initiative, the Aspen Global Leadership Network (US) and an alumnus of the Cambridge and Prince of Wales Sustainable Leadership Programme (UK). In 2012 – 2013 she was a ministerial appointee to the National Task Team on Sexual Offences Legislation & the Re-Establishment of Sexual Offences Courts. She also served on the President’s Working Group on Women (PWGW) from 2005 – 2007 and remains a vociferous champion for women’s rights and equality.
We are very fortunate to have her as the leader of ProBono.Org and hope all our partners and colleagues will welcome her to the team.
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.
READ MORE ABOUT THE 2017 PRO BONO AWARDS HERE
By Petrina Chetty.
Fawzia Khan of Fawzia Khan & Associates is a sole proprietor and general litigation attorney. She joined our panel in 2015. Since then, Ms Khan has maintained a consistent presence at ProBono.Org due to her desire to help people. Apart from taking on numerous matters, Ms Khan has assisted us with many of our special projects, such as the 16 Days of Activism help desks, and seminars for GreenAble and the KZN Blind & Deaf Society. Ms Khan is one of the attorneys that we can (and do!) approach when we need assistance urgently. In an organisation like ProBono.Org, it is most valuable to have attorneys like Ms Khan on our panel. She has proven that everyone can give back if they so wish.
“Giving back to the community by providing free legal services to the vulnerable and indigent is most fulfilling and highly rewarding”
Another attorney who we wish to acknowledge is Gregory Botha of Pitcher & Fismer Attorneys. Mr Botha is a general litigation attorney and also joined our panel in 2015. As Mr Botha practises in Pietermaritzburg, it is difficult for our Pietermaritzburgbased firms to staff our help desks in Durban. Mr Botha compensates for that by being ever willing to take on individual matters and has assisted us tremendously in this regard. He has gone above and beyond his mandate to ensure that clients are assisted.
“ I believe ProBono.Org helps to ensure that those less fortunate in our society have access to quality representation, ensuring these individuals’ rights are properly protected and / or enforced, making ‘access to justice’ a reality for them.”
READ THE FULL NEWSLETTER HERE
By Swazi Malinga.
The ProBono.Org Palm Ridge help desk services the community of Thokoza, Alberton and Palm Ridge. The help desk is operational on Mondays and clients receive assistance with family law matters, deceased estate and maintenance cases. We would like to salute our volunteer attorneys from Klopper Jonker Attorneys and Sumadhi Naidoo Attorneys.
Their dedication and hard work has kept this help desk afloat. They even go the extra mile by not just providing legal advice, but taking on cases and appearing in court for clients who cannot afford to pay legal fees.
Klopper Jonker Attorneys
READ THE FULL NEWSLETTER HERE
by Erica Emdon.
Pretoria ProBono.Org office
ProBono.Org opened an office in Pretoria in May 2015, in a joint arrangement with the Law Society of the Northern Provinces. The office was based in Visagie Street Pretoria, and was established to enable the LSNP to have a place where clients could come for legal assistance. ProBono.Org agreed to recruit lawyers to do some of the legal work generated on a pro bono basis. Regrettably ProBono.Org has had to withdraw from the venture since funding for this office has placed considerable strain on its resources. It is confident however that the LSNP will continue a successful pro bono programme, based at the North Gauteng High Court, under the watchful eye of Humphrey Shivamba, the coordinator of pro bono at the LSNP.
Khayelitsha ProBono.Org office
In September 2016 ProBono.Org opened an office in Khayelitsha at an NGO centre funded and built by The Atlantic Philanthropies. The building stands grandly alongside the Magistrate’s Court, hospital, SASSA and Legal Aid SA offices, and houses a range of NGOs that provide invaluable services to poor and needy people. These include Equal Education, the Equal Education Law Centre, the Treatment Action Campaign, Tekano and the Social Justice Coalition, among others. ProBono.Org was invited to open a legal clinic in the building which seemed like an opportunity to extend our services into the Western Cape. After settling in however, we have realised that the location of the building is difficult to access by clients who do not live in Khayelitsha and legal practitioners based more centrally in Cape Town. We have taken the difficult decision to relocate to the Cape Town CBD. Our new office will be close to the train station, within walking distance of the Cape Law Society, Magistrate’s Court, Deeds Office, Master’s Office and High Court. It is close to law firms and chambers and we believe, because of this more suitable location, it will enable ProBono.Org to take off most successfully in the Western Cape. The address and phone number will be released in August after the office opens.
READ THE FULL NEWSLETTER HERE
ProBono.Org Cape Town and Bowman Gilfillan invited by Amnesty International to be panelists on the Constitutional Matters programme hosted by Voice of the Cape
On the 19th of April 2017 ProBono.Org Cape Town and Bowman Gilfillan were invited by Amnesty International to be panelists on the Constitutional Matters programme hosted by Voice of the Cape, a local community radio station.
The public education programme is aimed at transformative constitutionalism. This particular session focused on the Right to Equality and Access to Justice and Legal Recourse in relation to the horizontal relationship between the State and the Citizen.
By Shamika Dwarika, Elsabe Steenhuisen and Tshenolo Masha.
Help desks have proven to be a good service point for pro bono access. They are well situated and within easy reach for clients who frequent the courts or government departments requiring legal advice.
They are also a convenient and efficient system for attorneys to provide their pro bono hours in a space where they frequently operate and work.
Despite its limited staff, the Durban office runs 11 help desks, which enable us to extend our services to the wider community. In addition to specialised Consumer/Small claims, Refugee, Housing, Labour, Family and Deceased Estates help desks that are based at the Durban office in the CBD, there are several general advice help desks. These are based at the Chatsworth, Ntuzuma and Umlazi magistrates’ courts.
A number of new projects have recently been added. In December 2016, a general advice help desk was launched at the Verulam Family Court which is held on the first Tuesday of every month and is accessible to residents of the Verulam, Ottowa and Phoenix communities. The project was launched with the co-operation of the Department of Justice and there has been no shortage of attorneys willing to staff this help desk.
The office recently partnered with the KZN Blind & Deaf Association to conduct monthly workshops for their beneficiaries, and held a once-off help desk in December 2016 with six attorneys in attendance. There are plans to run a similar help desk for the Pietermaritzburg branch in due course.
In a new development, a general advice help desk will be held in the Durban High Court in partnership with the KZN Law Society. The help desk will be the first of its kind for the Durban office and will run daily from 09:00 – 12:00. ProBono.Org had a test run on 14 March and the help desk will officially launch on 10 April. This help desk will be staffed by attorneys with a minimum of 5 years experience. If any attorneys are interested in participating in this new venture, please contact ProBono. Org’s Durban office on 031 301 6178.
A divorce legal clinic started on 7 February 2017 at the Johannesburg Regional Divorce Court with one attorney and one advocate attending on Tuesday mornings. Ten candidate attorneys joined the programme on Monday mornings under the supervision of Adv. Elsabe Steenhuisen. After training at the court on 13 and 20 March 2017, they started to assist the public from 27 March. On average, they assist 10 members of the public per session.
As a pilot project and in support of the SA Law Reform Commission’s paper, Project 31: Family Dispute resolution, the clinic has involved the pro bono services of mediators and counsel. The aim is to offer a complete service to the indigent, and if the divorce disputes cannot be settled by mediation and settlement agreements, counsel will continue with pre-trials and trials. The focus is on dispute resolution regarding assets, and allowing children to voice their opinion in an attempt to curtail conflict.
The involvement with the clinic has led to training for counsel (two sessions) and candidate attorneys (four sessions). More training is planned on different types of curatorship in family disputes (May 2017), and the functioning of children’s courts (June/July 2017) which will be open to all legal practitioners.
Following a call by conveyancers at a pro bono briefing session held at the Johannesburg Deeds Office, we are setting up a help desk at the Deeds Office. This help desk will form the basis for a similar help desk at the Pretoria Deeds Office. We are aiming for the help desk to be operational by May.
By Nadia Avis.
Let me first mention that I had an amazing time at ProBono.Org. I was so proud to be able to job shadow in such an organisation. It gave me a chance to see people who genuinely care about their community. Before I went to ProBono.Org I thought selfishly: Why would I want to study only to end up having to work for free? However, after being at ProBono.Org and being exposed to all the amazing work that is done there, I now understand how great a feeling it is to be helping someone, not because you have to but because you want to.
I had set my heart on going to ProBono.Org and I when I got accepted I was thrilled. Firstly, in my opinion, the office has such a cool location. As I stood in the offices, I thought how moving it was to be in the same place where a prisoner stood 50 years before me.
Generally, I learnt a lot about the field of law, along with a number of other things. I was asked to make a spreadsheet on Excel, I had an opportunity to read about different cases that interested me (one of them was the Grootboom vs the Republic of South Africa case) and was taught how to write a brief. I was also taken on a very informative tour of the Constitutional Court and the Women’s Gaol. I was informed about the Government Gazette and encouraged to do a bit of research. Even though I was not a regular employee, I had this amazing feeling coming in every day and knowing that there would always be someone to help me.
I was also truly impressed by the people that work at ProBono.Org: one could see that everyone was really passionate about what they are doing and all of them seemed happy to be able to do something worthwhile every day.
I really enjoyed my time at ProBono.Org and I think that the work that is done there is amazing. It also gives me hope to know that even if someone cannot afford legal services, there is an organisation like this that can help them.
Article by Richard Chemaly
ProBono.Org was informed of the difficulties being faced by a University of Cape Town (UCT) student, Rethabile Makoanyana, who was unable to graduate due to outstanding fees. The primary issue was that a Free State municipality had contractually agreed to pay his fees but failed to do so. His follow-up calls to the municipal manager were met with either silence or hostility. The result of his failure to graduate included stress on his mother leading to her high blood pressure, him experiencing depression and his being unable to register for an honours degree.
Because his appeals to the municipality to honour its agreement fell on deaf ears, he was compelled to find another conduit to assist him to settle his fees. Makoanyana complained to the Public Protector, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training and the Registrar of the Constitutional Court. These approaches seemed to incense the municipality and caused it to respond by incorrectly claiming that the matter was sub judice, which simply was not true.
It was then that ProBono.Org enlisted the assistance of Christopher MacRoberts, senior associate at Clyde & Co.
The legal battle began with a letter of demand. This was not only necessary to demand payment of the outstanding fees but it was also apparent that the municipality refused to provide UCT with Makoanyana’s student number so the fees already paid could be properly allocated. Throughout this time and despite his depression, Makoanyana continued negotiating with the university and trying to make contact with the executive mayor’s office.
In an attempt to mitigate the prejudice to Makoanyana, his mother attempted to take out a loan to pay the outstanding amount but her application was declined.
MacRoberts continued to put pressure on the municipality together with Makoanyana and eventually their collective efforts were rewarded without the need to litigate. The municipality paid all but some R5 000 of the total of R140 000 that was owing to UCT. Makoanyana’s mother made this final payment and is seeking reimbursement from the municipality.
In July, Makoanyana sent us his graduation photographs and expressed his thanks for our intervention.
Through this process, MacRoberts has discovered that this is an issue faced by many students who do not have the resources to take up a legal battle with their contractual funders. Fortunately in this instance, the funders were legally obligated and the documents were clear and unambiguous. Students who receive bursaries and funding for higher education should ensure that they receive proper documentation indicating the full undertaking of their funders. Students are further encouraged to reach out to ProBono.Org should they experience any such issues.
ProBono.Org is indebted to the excellent service offered by Christopher MacRoberts of Clyde & Co and thanks him for his successful efforts. We also thank the student, Makoanyana for having the courage to take on the municipality and demand what he was entitled to legally and contractually.