Attorney Profiles

Delia Jay

Durban attorney Delia Jay recently concluded a very interesting family law matter. When the client came to us at the pro bono desk, she had been turned away by everyone and told there was nothing that anyone could do to help her get divorced. She needed to get divorced as she had a new partner with whom she had had a child. The client’s husband was a Nigerian and he left South Africa 15 years ago. Despite client’s efforts, he could not be located.

Delia contacted a tracing agent to do a search for the husband, but he could not be found. In the end, Delia had to make an application for substituted service to get an interim order on affidavit stating that she could advertise in Canada, where client had last received a phone call from her husband in 2002. The order was granted and Delia personally raised the money to advertise in the Toronto Star, which was about R10 000 because of the poor exchange rate. ($ 1000 Canadian dollars). Delia advertised and the court finally agreed to set the matter down.

There were many delays, largely because dealing with the Durban Regional Magistrate’s Court, trying to get documents issued and a court date granted were very challenging. At times Delia felt like she was on a lone crusade and wanted to give up. It was also time consuming, as being a sole practitioner she had to attend to everything herself, including indexing and paginating, and making sure her file didn’t get lost. The magistrate eventually heard the matter on 10 April 2018 and granted the divorce. Delia feels a great deal of satisfaction in having finally achieved a happy result for the client so that she can move on with her life and her family.


Chrysi Kripotos

Chrysi Kripotos is an attorney practising in her own firm in Johannesburg. She is a conveyancer who has been in practice for 34 years.

The ProBono.Org Deeds Office help desk opened its doors at the Deeds Office in Johannesburg in June 2017. Chrysi has been part of the help desk since then. Chrysi says that she loves helping people who cannot afford legal services and that attending the help desk is the highlight of her week.

Chrysi has assisted clients with property transfers, donations, correction of names in the title deed, transfers from deceased estates, drafting of wills as well as section 17, 45 and 93 registrations.

Chrysi gets really frustrated when she is unable to assist clients. She feels that the help desk needs more qualified attorneys to assist with clients’ problems due to the number of people seeking help and that more days should be allocated in order to assist the indigent.

Some of the challenges include consulting with clients who coerce their elderly parents to make transfers in their favour. The consulting attorney has to ask the relevant questions in order to determine whether the transfer is in good faith and that the elderly parents are aware of the legal implications. Another challenge often encountered is the transfer of property from household permits to a title deed in terms of the Conversion of Certain Rights into Leasehold or Ownership Act. This has resulted in many clients seeking legal assistance at the help desk in order to reverse property transfers. Many of these transfers have divided families and it is unfortunate that many people still do not know about an Act that affects their lives so profoundly.


Portia Tsele, our latest Johannesburg intern

We welcomed Portia to the team in May and she is working with the Housing, Refugee and Community Advice Office unit.

She has an LLB from UNISA and is working towards an LLM in Property Law with the same university. She began her journey with ProBono.Org as a volunteer. Her reason for studying law was to give her the opportunity to help people. Working at ProBono.Org as a legal intern extends the reach of her charitable nature and enables her to assist the vulnerable and indigent members of our society.

Outside of work she is a member of the Catholic Women’s League and engages in their social welfare activities such as child adoption.

Portia hopes that her continued passion for assisting the marginalised and vulnerable in society helps her to make a meaningful contribution to the legal fraternity.


Click here for our complete June 2018 Newsletter

Welcome to Michelle Odayan – ProBono.Org’s new National Director

Welcome to Michelle Odayan – ProBono.Org’s new National Director

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.


Click here for our complete April 2018 Newsletter

Durban office welcomes staff attorney Seshni Govender

Change is inevitable and every organisation goes through staffing changes. However, while we frequently see interns leave after a year or two, the Durban office has welcomed a new staff attorney, Seshni Govender. Seshni joins us from private practice where she primarily worked on family law and criminal matters. She has an LLB degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Howard College). In the short time that she has been with us, Seshni has shown herself to have the drive necessary for an NGO such as ours by putting in the effort and ensuring that the work gets done. The Durban office welcomes her young blood and fresh ideas and looks forward to entering a new era with her.

Seshni deals with the family, labour and refugee portfolios at our office. In addition, she runs the Chatsworth, Verulam, KZN Deaf Association and Umlazi help desks. She will also be dealing with the street traders’ project that our office oversees. Attorneys interested in assisting with any of these can email her on

Click here for our complete April 2018 Newsletter

The Department of “Happiness Affairs”

The Department of “Happiness Affairs”

By Zekhethelo Cele, Legal Intern, Cape Town


On 6 April ProBono.Org Cape Town together with Sonke Gender Justice, the Legal Resources Centre, the South African Human Rights Commission, UCT Refugee Law Clinic, Scalabrini, Resilience Africa and UNIFAM held an awareness event as part of their mission to ensure that the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (CTRRO) reopens and is fully functional.

The Director General of Home Affairs decided to close the CTRRO to new applicants for asylum after 29 June 2012, which the Western Cape High Court ruled was unlawful. The court ordered that the CTRRO be reopened by 1 July 2013, but the Director General took the decision on appeal. Consequently, on 26 September 2017 the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the Western Cape High Court’s decision, stating that the Department of Home Affairs’ decision to close the CTRRO was both unlawful and irrational, citing the Department’s responsibilities towards the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, and ordered the CTRRO to reopen by 30 March 2018.

Despite the constitutional implications of closing the office, the Department of Home Affairs had argued that the CTRRO was closed due to the undesirability and difficulty in operating urban Refugee Reception Offices. It further stated that the location of Cape Town is unfavorable due to many asylum seekers entering South Africa through its northern borders. In spite of the latest court ruling, it was apparent that the CTRRO would not reopen to assist new asylum seekers by 30 March 2018 as per the court order. As civil society representatives, our purpose is to ensure that the Department of Home Affairs, the Ministry and the Director General are held accountable and remain answerable to the public in this regard, as they stand in contempt of court.

We have made various attempts to find out when the office will reopen, but representatives from the CTRRO advised that they need to secure new premises first and allege that the Department of Public Works has been delaying the process. When asked why they needed to obtain new premises since the current office was fully functional before it closed its doors to new asylum seekers, we were advised that they did not have the mandate to answer this question.

As civil society representatives, we are well aware of the hardships that new asylum seekers in Cape Town have to go through to get their papers. The logistical implications are simply unreasonable and very unfair. People have to travel long distances to either Pretoria, Durban or Musina, regardless of where they are living in the country. This involves asylum seekers in the Western Cape and surrounding provinces having to travel to these cities at their own expense, taking days off work and being forced to keep their children out of school for the duration of their trip. Even then, it is not guaranteed that they will be assisted within a day, since the lines are exceptionally long and the process itself a dreadful one that could take months and even years to finalise.

ProBono.Org together with other NGOs believe that this situation is dire, and the rights of asylum seekers are being undermined.

We have been tirelessly appealing to the Department of Home Affairs and the Minister to prioritise the reopening of the CTRRO. Its closure has given rise to gross constitutional implications and the effects thereof will have a negative impact on South Africa’s interactions with neighboring countries.

As NGOs, we have dubbed ourselves “The Department of Happiness Affairs” and asylum seekers and the general public participated in the 6 April awareness event. We hope that this event has regained the attention of the relevant departments to ensure that the court order is not simply lost in processes and swept under the rug.

Click here for our complete April 2018 Newsletter

Practitioner Profile

Practitioner Profile

By Masechaba Modise, Legal Intern


Emily Ruth West is a young, vibrant legal practitioner, practising at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr. She was born in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. She obtained her law degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and relocated to Johannesburg to commence her articles with the firm in 2015. In May 2017 she was admitted as an attorney and is now an associate working in the Trust and Estates department.

The Trust and Estates department specialises in the administration of deceased estates, trust matters, wills and estate planning. As part of their initiative to give back to the community and serve their pro bono hours, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr has practitioners who volunteer at the Master’s Office Help Desk and Emily is one of them.

The Master’s Help Desk is located at the Master of the High Court, Johannesburg and assists destitute and indigent members of the public who need assistance with either reporting and administration of a deceased estate, estate planning and general legal advice pertaining to deceased estates.

Although this is a great avenue for the practitioners, Emily often encounters challenges which are common but not limited to reporting and administering estates worth R250 000 or more and where the only asset in the estate is immovable property, often indebted to the municipality.

The biggest challenge however has been dealing with and advising on deceased estates where she has to explain the non-existent notion of a “family house” and the interpretation of ownership in terms of legislation applicable to the country. More often than not the clients become confused and agitated, especially because most of them do not understand the distinction between the customary context and the legal interpretation of ownership, but as a legal practitioner one has to apply the law as is and allow the client to learn and understand the concepts. As Emily says, “ It’s daunting but someone has to do it, and unfortunately that someone is me sometimes.”

Given its challenges, Emily and the firm generally love to assist with pro bono work as they get to engage with the actual people. The firm predominantly deals with corporate matters, so to have the opportunity to work and help actual people who may not under ordinary circumstances be able to afford such legal services is fulfilling. To quote Emily, “We sit in our comfortable offices in Sandton but once you step out to go and staff the Help Desk you get exposed to a whole different world, where the reality of how many people cannot afford basic legal assistance because of their financial difficulties stares you in the face. That experience on its own is enough to make any practitioner want to assist in any way possible”.

Emily believes that with more initiative from legal practitioners and relevant stakeholders the Administration of Deceased Estates Act can be amended to accommodate the indigent and vulnerable.


Click here for our complete April 2018 Newsletter

New interns for Cape Town

Courtney Cupido obtained her LLB Degree from the University of the Western Cape in 2016, after which she attended UCT’s School for Legal Practice which solidified her interest in human rights law and social justice. During her studies she was a member of the Street Law Society, the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation (Ashley Kriel Youth Development Programme) and Activate Change Drivers. Her involvement with these initiatives ignited her passion to uplift communities and to develop young people.


Zunaid Latief graduated with an LLB degree from the University of the Western Cape in 2016. He is currently an alumnus member of the HCI Foundation, where he has participated in a number of community outreach programmes, including feeding schemes in some of Cape Town’s most poverty-stricken areas. One of his primary goals in life is to educate and assist underprivileged and previously disadvantaged communities, especially on the Cape Flats, where the lack of access to justice and general lack of legal assistance is prevalent.

Click here for our complete April 2018 Newsletter


South Africa has robust laws which protect the vulnerable but enforcement of these laws lags behind. There is a scarcity of lawyers working at community levels which hinders much needed legal reform. Grassroots justice is therefore required to fill the gap. In response to this problem, the Cape Town office of Norton Rose Fulbright SA, in association with ProBono.Org, launched a general legal clinic in the community of Langa on 7 February 2018. The clinic’s objective is to provide access to justice and to empower people to protect their rights. The firm will be providing pro bono legal services to Langa residents once a month for the next year. If you would like to offer your services at the clinic, please contact Nicki van‘t Riet.

Click here for our complete April 2018 Newsletter

Welcome to our interns for 2018

Welcome to our interns for 2018


The Family Law, Labour Law and Wills Unit has two interns this year:

Molebogeng Manyako hails from Rustenburg and completed her LLB degree at North West University (Mahikeng Campus) in 2015. She wanted to work for ProBono.Org to assist indigent people with their legal problems.



Suraya Mckenzie-Pillay graduated from the University of theWitwatersrand with anLLB in 2014. Her passion and interest in social justice and human rights was ignited in her final year when she did practical legal studies at the Wits Law Clinic.



Daphne Makombe is working with the One Child a Year campaign during her internship. She has an LLB from UNISA and is currently studying for a Master’s degree in corporate law. She volunteered at the Family Court in 2017, dealing mainly with divorce cases. She has a passion to serve justice and change people’s lives for the better.



Nelson Kesa is working with the Housing and Community Advice Office unit. He was born in Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape and went to school in Doornkop, Soweto. He applied to ProBono.Org for a legal internship because he wishes to help the most vulnerable and marginalised people to acquire legal assistance.




The Durban office also has four interns for 2018

Neliswa Ncama is interested in the link between law and development as a possible mechanism to finding solutions to social issues. She wishes to pursue a masters’ degree in this field in the near future.



Londeka Ndukuda is interested in social justice and how marginalised members of the community can access it. She hopes to find her niche through ProBono.Org.



Akhona Mthembu hopes to open a law firm in underdeveloped and rural areas, which will enable underprivileged people to receive legal assistance.



Gracia Biganda has been appointed as the Durban High Court help desk intern. After previously working with ProBono.Org as a volunteer and consultant, she has now officially joined the organisation. Her passion lies with human rights law and she believes in access to legal and social justice for all people. She wants to work for UN Women in the future so that she can contribute to the empowerment of African women.




The Cape Town Office welcomes Zekhethelo Cele from Richards Bay. She completed her LLB degree at the University of Zululand in 2014. While pursuing her studies she volunteered at the ProBono.Org Durban Office, the Master’s Office Help Desk and Legal Aid South Africa. Her areas of interest are socioeconomic rights, property law and matrimonial law.



We commend all our interns on their laudable goals and we look forward to a fruitful year ahead!

Click here for our complete February 2018 Newsletter

The Johannesburg ProBono.Org Divorce Help Desk

The Johannesburg ProBono.Org Divorce Help Desk

By Swazi Malinga and Elsabe Steenhuisen

In March 2017, ProBono.Org established a Divorce Help Desk at the Johannesburg Regional Court, which operates every Tuesday from 09h00 to 12h00.

The purpose of the help desk is to assist and encourage attorneys to complete their pro bono hours, and also to assist members of the public who qualify for pro bono assistance with their matrimonial (divorce) matters by providing them with legal advice, completion of the relevant court forms and, from time to time, providing assistance with drafting or completion of the summons and other relevant court pleadings.

At the beginning there were two volunteer attorneys staffing the help desk. Since recruitment of attorneys is essential in order to sustain this help desk, we approached the Johannesburg Attorneys Association in September, who assisted by advertising the help desk in their newsletter. The Johannesburg Family Law Forum also circulated our request for assistance amongst its members. We now have at least eight more volunteer attorneys who have signed up to staff the help desk and we look forward to recruiting more volunteers.

The help desk also offers a great opportunity for candidate attorneys and LEAD graduates.

Our One Child a Year (OCAY) campaign consultant, Elsabe Steenhuisen, runs the Divorce help desk on Tuesday mornings with candidate attorneys and LEAD graduates as part of her private pro bono hours. LEAD graduates have preference in assisting at the help desk as the aim is to empower candidates who have not secured articles in private practice. Secondly, it aims to instil an awareness of the merits of pro bono work in candidates on the brink of entering the law profession.

Three LEAD graduates and a candidate attorney participated. They underwent two training sessions with adv Steenhuisen before they started work under supervision. All three LEAD graduates assisted further at ProBono.Org’s office with other tasks in the OCAY project. Four new LEAD graduates were enrolled and underwent the first training session in January 2018 and started assisting the public on 6 February.


Click here for our complete February 2018 Newsletter

CASE STUDY: New Child Support Bill takes maintenance defaulters to task

By Uzair Adams.

In law, parenthood gives rise to parental rights, but more importantly, parental responsibilities in respect of children. One such responsibility in particular is the maintenance of children.

Contrary to popular belief, maintenance is not shared equally between parents. It is in fact payable by parents proportionately according to their respective means. Disagreements often arise where one parent fails to abide by their maintenance commitment, or only adheres to it sporadically. Ultimately it is the children who suffer as a result. For this reason, maintenance courts seriously consider the best interests of the child under the circumstances when making an order.

There are many parents who are able to reach an informal agreement in respect of their maintenance contribution. If parents are able to reach an amicable solution in this way, all the better. This however was not the case for one of our clients, Ms A, a single, unemployed mother who has been the primary caregiver of her two children since their father remarried in October 2016. After numerous requests, the father failed to provide the Maintenance Officer at the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court with a breakdown of his monthly income and expenditure. Ms. A had submitted an application for pro bono assistance to the Cape Law Society, which was approved. However, the Cape Law Society was unable to secure legal representation for her at her next court date and Ms. A approached ProBono.Org for further assistance.

We referred the matter to Ms. Rukia Allie Da Costa, an Attorney from Riley Incorporated who accepted the pro bono instruction, and the court granted an order that the father pay R5,500.00 per month for the maintenance of the children.

There is a widespread habit of parents seeking to evade their maintenance responsibilities, resulting in huge magistrates’ court backlogs with such matters. We welcome the Child Support Bill that took effect in January 2018 which states that parents who default on child maintenance will be blacklisted and blocked from receiving credit if their maintenance payments are in arrears.

We are hopeful that the new legislation will transform the attitude towards payment of maintenance.

Click here for our complete February 2018 Newsletter