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

Human Rights Festival 2019

Human Rights Festival 2019

By Margaret Fish

Over four days from 21 to 24 March the festival included poetry, art exhibitions, a film festival, the social forum, activism row, a music evening and We the People walks on the Sunday. In addition, there was a marquee with food stalls and a market where creatives sold their wares.

ProBono.Org had a stand in Activism Row and on Saturday morning we held consultations for people wanting assistance with family law issues. Our family law attorney and child law consultant, along with volunteer attorneys from Werksmans were on hand to provide advice.

Meanwhile, in Musina in Limpopo our refugee project manager attended a Human Rights Day annual soccer tournament that commemorated human rights with a special focus on refugee and migrant rights.

 

Click here for our complete April 2019 Newsletter

Commemoration of International Human Rights Day

Commemoration of International Human Rights Day

By Shamika Dwarika

ProBono.Org (Durban), in partnership with the SA Human Rights Commission and The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, hosted an event to commemorate International Human Rights Day.

The event was held on 10 December 2018 at the University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban and was open to all legal practitioners and various organisations. The speakers were the Honourable Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery MP, Judge Radebe and Professor K. Govender, with the event being facilitated by Adv. D. Ainslie. The theme of the event was “Lets Stand Up for Equality, Justice and Human Dignity”, with each of the three speakers dealing with one sub-theme.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and 10 December was declared International Human Rights Day. The year 2018 marked the 70th anniversary of the day. Partners saw this as an opportunity to celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and highlight the need to honour and uphold human rights principles and standards.

Several sponsors came on board to show their support and we are grateful to LexisNexis SA, Aquacool, Shackleton Risk, Varsity College Westville (Business School), Virgin Active | Collection, Garlicke & Bousfield attorneys and the Durban University of Technology (Department of Applied Law) for their contributions.

 

Caption for picture (Left to Right)

  • Professor K. Govender (Commissioner SA Human Rights Commission),
  • Benjamin Ntombela (Legal Officer SA Human Rights Commission (KZN)),
  • Honourable Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Develpoment, the Hon. J.H. Jeffery, MP,
  • Shamika Dwarika (Regional Director: ProBono.Org),
  • Judge N. Radebe (KZN High Courts) and
  • Asiya Khan (Senior Legal Admin Officer: DOJ&CD, KZN Regional Office)

 

 

Click here for our complete February 2019 Newsletter

Dialogue on Mandela the Lawyer

Dialogue on Mandela the Lawyer

In collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF), ProBono.Org held a dialogue on Nelson Mandela the legal practitioner on 11 October to mark the centenary of Madiba’s birth.

The conversation was the first of several planned to start a conversation about the importance of pro bono work and the ethics and values needed to reshape the profession to be more public-spirited. The conversation was started by Sahm Venter, senior researcher at the NMF, who emphasised the importance of pro bono work during apartheid and the work of the Independent Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF) established by Canon John Collins of St Paul’s Cathedral to defend political activists.

Former Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs spoke about how Madiba the lawyer was a commanding presence in a courtroom. He stressed the importance of not seeing Mandela the lawyer as a conflict with Mandela the revolutionary. He used the law to make a living and also to fight for his people in court. His legal experience also helped him when it came to drafting the Constitution.

Lwando Xaso, senior associate at ENSafrica, found Mandela’s speech about being “a black man in a white man’s court” relevant today for young black lawyers in law firms where they are expected to dress and act according to the firm’s culture and thereby feel they are losing their own culture and feel alienated in their workplaces. It is sad that even as transformation is on people’s lips and in their policies, they do not make an effort to get to know their black lawyers. Several audience members, who were mainly young black lawyers, echoed this feeling. One said that she had found that in her community people did not know about the Constitution and she felt she could give back by educating them about the law.

ProBono.Org National Director, Michelle Odayan, who facilitated the dialogue, said that legal practitioners who give their time and experience to provide access to justice should not be regarded as poor and inferior. We are planning to hold further dialogue sessions on topical issues in 2019 as part of our young lawyer development programme.

Click here for our complete December 2018 Newsletter

The Open Society Foundation in SA turns 25

The Open Society Foundation in SA turns 25

On 29 and 30 November ProBono. Org attended the 25th anniversary of the Open Society Foundation for South Africa (OSF-SA), which opened offices in 1993. However, founder George Soros had already been engaged in South Africa since 1979 when he launched a scholarship programme for black students to study at the University of Cape Town. The programme for the celebration included tours to some of the Cape Town projects funded by OSF-SA, a film preview, panel discussions at the OSF offices, a photo exhibition of grantees’ social justice projects and a commemorative public lecture at the City Hall with Samia Nkrumah in conversation with Patrick Gaspard, President of the OSF. A highlight of this last evening was the announcement of the next 25 recipients of fellowships and scholarships, one of the presenters being the first recipient of a bursary in 1979.

Congratulations OSF-SA!

Click here for our complete December 2018 Newsletter

Attorney get-together and feedback session

Attorney get-together and feedback session

On 6 December a good crowd of attorneys, advocates and mediators gathered at our offices to socialise and give us feedback on their experiences staffing our legal clinics and help desks and taking on our clients’ cases. We are grateful for this feedback and also for the good work of all our partners in 2018. We are proud to report that with your help we have assisted over 10,000 needy people this year. We wish every one of you a restful and happy festive season.

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

Impact Africa 18 Summit

By Molebogeng Manyako, Johannesburg intern.

Further focus on SMMEs and advancing young entrepreneurs saw ProBono.Org and the British Council collaborate on a session presented by ProBono.Org and Bowmans at the Impact Africa Summit from 20 to 22 June. The purpose of the event was to accelerate innovative solutions to Africa’s most pressing challenges by inspiring, supporting and connecting leading social entrepreneurs and key ecosystem players across countries, organisations and sectors such as policy, social investment, business and education.

The first day dealt with leadership for change addressed by the likes of Pat Pillai and Jay Naidoo, to mention a few. The second day was about building a strong ecosystem and the third day addressed collaboration, which does not necessarily involve having money. One’s hands, mind and time can all be used to collaborate.

The Impact Africa summit has shown that we all have a role to play in shaping our societies to be more conducive for the holistic development of women. Last but not least, who can forget Sylvia Banda, a Zambian entrepreneur and a great storyteller. She said that “ I didn’t need to tell anyone about my first business. I just fried the food and filled the room with a nice aroma. People came to my door asking if I’ve started a restaurant”.

 

Click here for our complete October 2018 Newsletter

Public Interest Law Gathering (PILG) 4-5 Sept 2018

Public Interest Law Gathering (PILG) 4-5 Sept 2018

By Tshenolo Masha.

At this year’s event, convened by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) ProBono.Org organised a plenary session on Transformation, both in the public interest law sector and the profession as a whole.

The panellists were Lisa Chamberlain (CALS), advocate Amelia Rawhani (Johannesburg Bar), Silomo Khumalo (Black Workers Forum), Mari van Wyk (Lexis Nexis) and Khululilwe Ntombi Bhengu (former ProBono.Org intern currently serving articles at SERI).The panel was facilitated by Tshenolo Masha of ProBono.Org.

The ojectives of the session were to look back on what has been achieved and some of the challenges within the public interest law sector and also to get an understanding of how the question of transformation is addressed by the legal profession as a whole.

The panellists covered aspects such as:

  • How transformation affects the sustainability and funding of organisations
  • A demographic overview of the profession in terms of race and gender (outlined in the Lexis Nexis 2016 survey)
  • How the lack of real transformation hinders young black female lawyers.

The session made it clear that a huge amount of work needs to be done to gain real transformation. We will be engaging young professionals to plan how active, progressive results can be achieved.

 

Click here for our complete October 2018 Newsletter