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.
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The Johannesburg office and the Municipality of Ekurhuleni Community Development Directorate, hosted a workshop on Wills and matters relating to the social welfare of the community and children. The various speakers included social workers, community forum representatives and one of our staff members. The event was well attended but the community of Palmridge.
By Tshenolo Masha.
On 17 November 2016, Tshenolo Masha met with the 16 Limpopo Community advice offices in Polokwane at the South African Human Rights Commission to reflect on the work of the ProBono.Org Community Advice Office Support Project during 2016.
Community advice office representatives gave feedback on the successes and challenges that the project experienced throughout the year. Many of the participants noted a change in their perception of the legal profession. For instance, Johanna Mkhabela from the Manthata Advice Office was under the impression that legal professionals were inaccessible to poor people and that they could not identify with some of their challenges, but after interacting and linking up with Mashola Attorneys the advice office felt that the legal professionals are able to apply their knowledge of the law to the client’s case and take into account the socio-economic situation of the clients. The meeting also discussed some of the training needs of the advice offices for the coming year such as labour law and mediation. This will inform the discussion that ProBono.Org will have with legal professionals in Limpopo on how they can get more involved with community legal empowerment and training for community advice office paralegals.
By Thato Mashishi, Fasken Martineau.
On 20 October 2016, ProBono.Org in partnership with Fasken Martineau hosted a community workshop in Orange Farm. Presentations were made by professionals from Fasken Martineau: Gia Abrahamson, Nasipi Mantshule and Thato Mashishi.
The presentations covered Children’s Rights, Domestic Violence and Maintenance and were conducted in English, Setswana and Xhosa.
The focus of the workshop was to create awareness in the community and to provide information on the available pro bono legal services.
The presenters explained the rights and responsibilities of parents and children, what gender-based violence is and how to apply for maintenance. The workshop was a great success and the community felt empowered, especially since the workshop was conducted in their vernacular languages.
Probono.org hosted a workshop at Fasken Martineau Johannesburg on after hours bail. We’re setting up a panel of private attorneys to assist and address instances where people are detained after hours and cannot get access to legal representation, especially in instances of protest.
Thanks to Adv Bilal Bodhania of Duma Nokwe Group of Advocates and Mr Mmeli Motsepe (Snr Attorney at Legal Aid South Africa) for sharing their extensive knowledge and experience with us.
Probono.Org organized a Family Law workshop for the community of Tembisa at Rabasotho Hall. This would not have been possible without the assistance of our volunteer attorneys from Fasken Martineau, who did presentations on the Domestic Violence Act, Children’s Act and the Maintenance Act.
Probono.Org with the assistance of our volunteer attorneys from Norton Rose Fulbright SA conducted and facilitated a wills presentation and drafting workshop for the community of Ivory Park, Midrand, at the Thuthukani Care Centre on 21 April.
This workshop explained what a will is and the requirements for executing a valid will. It also touched on other areas of law that are interwoven with the topic. For instance:
The implications of dying without a will if –
- One is in an unregistered customary marriage;
- One is in a cohabitation relationship;
- One is n a universal partnership;
- One has children out of wedlock; and
- One has raised children as their own without legally adopting them.
The workshop also discussed disputes that often arise between family members in appointing an executor when the deceased has died intestate and the negative effect of this on the winding up of the estate.