Children’s Project – training for legal practitioners

By Elsabe Steenhuisen

 

1. Short dialogues

This year our children’s project is conducting a series of eight two-hour dialogues in four Gauteng regions (Alberton, Roodepoort, Boksburg and Johannesburg) spread over the year. Their aim is to create a platform for recently admitted and young legal practitioners to engage with each other and with more experienced colleagues on various topics.

The first two dialogues (held on 28 March and 4 April) served to improve the practical skills of dealing with professional/client relationships – the conflict, the emotions, the relentless contact and insistence on feedback, the overload of information, the lack of co-operation and clear instructions. The third and fourth dialogues (held on 24 and 30 May) dealt with the lessons of practice we only learn the hard way. Attendees compared and shared their experiences with that of the speaker and their colleagues.

The fifth dialogue was held on 11 July at Klopper Jonker Attorneys in Alberton and dealt with appropriate billing practices, the difference between fees and disbursements, managing clients’ perceptions in respect of fees and clear communication with clients about fees. The speaker touched on overreaching, underreaching, deposits and fee estimations. This dialogue will be repeated on 29 August at Coetzee Attorneys in Roodepoort.

The last two sessions will be held on 16 August at Hogan Lovells, Sandton and on 23 August at Alice Swanepoel Attorneys, Boksburg. The speaker will open the discussion with reference to best practice in respect of the charging of professional fees and the levying of disbursements. He will conclude with ethical ways of dealing with advocates and with the courts.
ProBono.Org is indebted to Ramsden Small Attorneys that made Suné Bosch and Jonathan Small available to lead the dialogues for 2019, and to the firms for hosting the dialogues.

If you would like to attend the remaining dialogues, you are welcome to book your place with Phumi at phumi@probono.org.za. Please note that space is limited.

2. Workshops in Children’s Court practice

The second of this series of workshops was held on 19 July hosted by our partners, Werksmans Attorneys.
Presenter and former magistrate Alice Swanepoel shared her years of experience in handling Children’s Court matters. The gathering was also an opportunity for the legal practitioners who had attended the first session to probe more deeply into the intricacies of representing children and their interests.

We were also honoured by a surprise guest speaker, Acting Judge Clute Swanepoel. His significant depth of knowledge and particular experience in the higher courts provided an additional layer of detail to the session.

These workshops highlighted the need for legal practitioners to discuss practical scenarios with each other and with experts on Children’s Court practice. Plans for 2020 workshops will focus on this aspect and we will call on legal practitioners to indicate which scenarios they would like to be discussed.

Our thanks for the contributions of the speakers and the host, and the participation of the attendees.

 

Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter

HCI Foundation Workshop

In Johannesburg on 25 July the HCI Foundation held a well-received workshop for its grantees. The objectives of the day were to share good practices, encourage collaborations, deepen an understanding of monitoring and evaluation, explore fundraising and sustainability and to celebrate and inspire individuals and organisations. The activities included getting to see the work of the participating organisations through their colourful displays, creative group work and a feedback session on the 2018 survey sent out by the HCI Foundation. This survey highlighted the need for funders to have more contact with grantees, enable peer learning and provide mentorship to small NPOs. We thank the Foundation for a well executed and worthwhile engagement.

 

Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter

Women’s Day 2019

On 15 August the Johannesburg office held its annual Women’s Day event. 50 Community members came from the Johannesburg area as well as Tembisa, Zola and Dobsonville. Candice Pillay from Hogan Lovells spoke to them about child and spousal maintenance and 30 attorneys, advocates and mediators made themselves available for private consultations on the day. In addition, information was provided by the Teddy Bear Clinic, the CCMA, POWA, the Legal Resources Centre, MES and the Deeds Office. Thanks to Candice and to the legal practitioners who volunteered their time to advise and assist the women who had legal issues.

 

Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) – Diversity Training Programme for ProBono.Org and law firm affiliates

By Swazi Malinga

ProBono.Org identified the need to sensitise our staff on all aspects of sexual diversity and inclusivity. We engaged Enza, an accredited training provider specialising in gender diversity. The training was offered in three sessions spread over three months.

The programme aimed to sensitise legal practitioners who provide services to their LGBTI clients and focused specifically on the health and justice service needs of the LGBTI community, especially those targeted for hate crimes because of their sexual orientation or gender non-conformity. The intention was to stimulate dialogue by creating a space for shared learning and problem solving. Sensitising frontline legal workers improves access to treatment and care for vulnerable groups.

The training curriculum was made up of the following modules:

Module 1: Intersectionality
Module 2: Gender & Sexuality Sensitisation
Module 3: Understanding Health & Justice Needs
Module 4: Creating A Welcoming & Safe Environment
Module 5: Gender, Sexuality And The Law
Module 6: Understanding Hate Crimes
Module 7: Being Transgender

 

Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter

Amnesty International Youth Assembly

Amnesty International Youth Assembly

By Muchengeti Hwacha, Johannesburg intern.

On 2 August 2019 delegates from 150 countries descended on Johannesburg for Amnesty International’s (AI’s) Annual Global Assembly. This gathering constitutes the organisation’s highest decision making body and befitting the magnitude of the occasion, former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke gave the keynote address.

AI describes itself as a world embracing movement, working for the protection of human rights. The famed story of the Nobel Peace Prize winning organisation dates back to 1961, when British lawyer Peter Benenson wrote an article ‘The Forgotten Prisoners’ for the newspaper The Observer. The article was a call to action, an inspirational stance against the plight of prisoners of conscience.

AI invited ProBono.Org to take part in the YOUTH POWER ACTION! session. The youth gathering brought together young human rights activists to share stories of their past journey and ideas for future action. From reproductive rights activists in Latin America, to trauma counselling for Syrian refugees in Turkey, we heard testimonies that gave life to cursory coverage of the news media. We had moments of deep reflection, we had moments of youthful light-heartedness, but most importantly we had moments to connect and find allies in the work we are so passionate about. We experienced an energy in that room, a driving force for good, that we hope to carry with us in our human rights work.

 

Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter

Participation in Africa Month

Participation in Africa Month

By Muchengeti Hwacha, Johannesburg Intern.

As an organisation that works to protect and promote the rights of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, ProBono.Org was invited to join a coalition of civil society organisations in planning events to celebrate Africa Day.

Given the recent xenophobic rhetoric from leaders across the political spectrum and the resultant violence it instigated, the coalition decided it was important to unite people around the hashtags ‘#AfricaForAll and #IAmAnAfrican’. The events were intended to engage with various stakeholders to address the causes of afro-phobia in South African society and the lack of government accountability when said phobia leads to violence and death. More importantly the events were intended to provide a space for open and honest dialogue that would breed common understanding among a divergent group of people.

 

The events included:

Youth Engagement at the University of Pretoria

This engagement with international students at the University of Pretoria was intended to get an understanding of what it is like to be a young foreign national living, working and studying in South Africa. The turnout was overwhelming and the engagements thought provoking. Issues of language barriers, tribalism and stereotyping were highlighted as key concerns among the youth population. ProBono.Org organised, catered for and moderated the event.

Youth Dialogue at the Diepkloof Welfare Centre

This dialogue, held in the heart of Soweto, brought a message of understanding and inclusiveness to the Diepkloof community. The event created a platform for three brilliant speakers from the refugee, migrant and asylum seeker community to share their experiences with Diepkloof residents. The ensuing dialogue brought out strong emotions from both the residents and the speakers. The raw emotions expressed, rather than being divisive, actually allowed for an open and honest interaction which led to a deepened understanding of one another. ProBono.Org assisted in organising and moderating the event

For media coverage on the Youth Dialogue follow the link below:
https://sowetourban.co.za/59194/ diepkloof-residents-given-insightsimmigration/

Stakeholder Dialogue at the Constitution Hill Precinct

This dialogue provided a platform for professionals who work to protect and promote the rights of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers to speak about their work and highlight the challenges facing this community. The event also allowed for government officials to respond to the criticisms laid against them by the professional group. This high level engagement created an opportunity for interaction and potential collaboration between civil society and government officials working in the space. ProBono.Org assisted in planning and formed part of the panel of civil society speakers. Tshenolo Masha, the head of the Refugee and Immigration department at ProBono.Org, spoke on the legal perspectives of the migrant experience.

Africa Day Festival at the Catholic Archdiocese, Doornfontein

After all the serious discussions mentioned above the coalition decided to create a more celebratory atmosphere with a festival held in the middle of Johannesburg. This event brought together people from 20 different African countries to share food, fashion and music. The programme included live musical performances, a fashion show and various other activities for the whole family. ProBono.Org assisted with financial and logistical support.

The following organisations participated:

The Foundation for Human Rights (FHR), The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in SA (CoRMSA), Constitution Hill, Amnesty International, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), Africa Diaspora Forum (ADF), The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), The Refugee Children’s Project, The SA Congress of Non profit Organisations (SACONO), the City of Johannesburg, the Department of Arts and Culture, the Department of Justice and the Action Support Centre (ASC).

Click here for our complete June 2019 Newsletter

<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

<strong>National Elections</strong> – a mediator’s perspective

National Elections – a mediator’s perspective

By Muchengeti Hwacha, Johannesburg intern.

On 8 May 2019 South Africans went to the polls for national and provincial (general) elections for only the sixth time in the democratic Republic’s short 25 year history, and only the fifth time that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) facilitated the election process. Despite that relatively short history the IEC has managed the monumental task of holding regular elections that have been deemed both free and fair by local, regional and international observers. At this critical time in South Africa’s democratic history I am proud to say that I assisted in a successful election process. Upon the recommendation of the national director, I was appointed to form a part of the IEC’s Gauteng conflict mediation panel. I was honoured to participate in deepening the roots of this fledgling democracy.

The IEC received a significant amount of criticism following the elections. However, at the risk of being deemed conflicted, I would like to provide some context for the enormous task that the IEC takes on every five years.

The IEC was formed on 17 October 1996 as one of the so called ‘Chapter Nine’ institutions, established under the Constitution. These institutions are tasked with strengthening constitutional democracy in the Republic. Under section 190 of the Constitution the IEC is specifically tasked with;

(a) managing the elections of national, provincial and municipal legislative bodies
(b) ensuring that those elections are free and fair, and
(c) declaring the results of those elections within a period that must be prescribed by national legislation and that is as short as reasonably possible.

These three tasks look simple enough, but have often been the cause of violent conflict the world over, and more recently with our SADC neighbours; Kenya, Zimbabwe and the DRC. The cautionary tale of property damage and loss of life that played out in these countries illustrates the weight that is on the IEC’s shoulders every election cycle. These fears were compounded by various incidents in the lead up to the 2019 general election, including;

  1. The flare up of xenophobic violence in Durban
  2. The service delivery protests in Alexandra
  3. The Western Cape High Court ruling that threatened to postpone the elections
  4. A Constitutional Court ruling that required the voters role to include addresses
  5. The threatened strike action by IEC employees

The IEC is constitutionally mandated to handle all the issues above and more. Above and beyond this, the IEC was required to train, equip and mobilise a labour force of over 200 000 employees and approximately 50 000 volunteers. This staff contingent was to be spread out across 28 700 polling stations across the country. The challenge is made more onerous when one takes into account that this has to be done in co-ordination with the South African Police Service, the South African Defence Force, the National Disaster Management Centre, the various media houses, political parties and over seventeen and a half million voters. There is no private or public institution that has to mobilise that number of people, over such a short space of time.

It is within this context that the IEC had to operate, and if the statements of the various domestic and international observer missions are anything to go by, the institution succeeded. The issues that were highlighted by a number of the smaller parties and noted by the larger ones were important but overwhelmingly immaterial and negligible.

As a conflict mediator I personally witnessed IEC officials, spurred on by a commitment to the South African democratic project, going above and beyond the call of duty to serve this Republic. In what some political leaders declared the most important elections since 1994, I was honored to serve alongside them.

 

Click here for our complete June 2019 Newsletter

Welcome to Cape Town’s 2019 interns

Three interns have recently joined the Cape Town office, made possible by the generous support of the HCI Foundation.

 

Melissa Engelbrecht

Melissa obtained her LLB degree from the University of the Western Cape in 2018. During her tertiary career she was a member of the Constitutional Literacy and Services Initiative (CLASI), which is primarily aimed at educating scholars on their basic human rights. Melissa’s goal is to give back to marginalised communities by providing pro bono legal assistance. Her areas of interest are property law and conveyancing.

 

Yolanda Mnyengeza

Yolanda obtained her LLB degree from the University of the Western Cape in 2017. In 2018 she was employed as a litigation intern by the Equal Education Law Centre based in Khayelitsha. Her role there revolved around assisting and informing parents, learners and schools about the basic right to education. Yolanda wants to work with previously disadvantaged groups in asserting their right to legal representation as well as access to justice.

 

 

Siphesihle Mayedwa

Siphesihle was born and bred in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. She obtained an LLB degree from the University of the Western Cape and a Postgraduate Certificate in Practical Legal Training from the University of Cape Town in 2019. She has always been passionate about social justice and is dedicated to adding value to underprivileged and previously disadvantaged communities. Siphesihle specifically chose law as a career path because she believes that it is continuously relevant to any context of life and has the ability to sharpen one’s mind. Her special interests are socio-economic rights and commercial law.
 

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

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