Congratulations to all the winners of the Pro Bono Awards on 7 September

Congratulations to all the winners of the Pro Bono Awards on 7 September

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

AWARDS 2016

probono-awards-2016-logoOnce again, on 6 September we celebrated the extraordinary work being undertaken by lawyers, the media, the NGO sector, students and others in promoting human rights and the interests of the poor and marginalised.

Not only did this third award ceremony mark great achievements, but it marked our 10th anniversary. And anniversaries are significant. Our 10th anniversary coincides with the 60th anniversary of the women’s march, the 40th anniversary of June 16 and the 20th anniversary of the Constitution. These are all significant events and we are proud to be able to place amongst them ourselves and the attorneys, advocates and others who do such important work.

This year’s guest speaker was Dali Mpofu SC, Vice-Chairperson of the Johannesburg Bar Council. He mentioned the new Legal Practice Act presently being implemented, where pro bono work is being addressed in the category of community service. Only a small percentage of South Africans can afford even the most basic legal services and without such services the values in our Constitution of equality, the rule of law and the restoration of human dignity cannot be realised. He added that if the profession gets the exercise right, it would go a very long way in addressing the present frustration experienced by the poor and economically disadvantaged, who are mostly black people, women and other economically vulnerable groups.

He also stressed the importance of all legal practitioners doing pro bono work and congratulated those who had been nominated as finalists. It was very pleasing to see a marked increase in the participation of small law firms in the awards this year.

Six independent judges chose the finalists and winners in each category:

  • Alice Brown, a human rights activist
  • Professor Jonathan Klaaren, Professor of Law at the Wits Law School
  • Clive Ramathibela-Smith, well known radio personality and businessman
  • Nomboniso Nangu, Director of the National Association for the Development of Community Advice Offices (NADCAO)
  • Nic Swart, CEO of the LSSA and LEAD
  • Jonathan Berger, an advocate of the High Court and a member of the Johannesburg Bar

Awards Finalists

    1. The most impactful case or initiative
probono-awards-2016-winners01

L-R: Dali Mpofu, Liesl Williams, Moray Hathorn and Krevania Pillay (Norton Rose Fulbright SA)

      • Webber Wentzel – for the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the Helen Suzman Foundation in the matter of the failure of the South African government to arrest Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir when he visited the country in June 2015.
      • Hogan Lovells – for the police brutality legal clinic it runs in conjunction with ProBono.Org.
      • Norton Rose Fulbright SA– for the Arthurstone Village Community. The Amashangana Tribal Authority case which restored land to a community evicted by a tribal authority.

The winner was Norton Rose Fulbright SA

 

 

    1. Firm without a dedicated pro bono department
Dali Mpofu with Danjelle Midgley (Cullinan & Associates)

Dali Mpofu with Danjelle Midgley (Cullinan & Associates)

      • Cullinan & Associates, Cape Town – for an environmental case involving the rights of AmaPondo communities on the Wild Coast.
      • Garlicke & Bousfield, Durban – for their work with the ProBono.Org office in Durban.
      • David Masilela – for his work with community advice offices and at help desks, and training of practitioners on areas of law affecting poor and vulnerable people.

Congratulations to the winner, Cullinan & Associates.

 

    1. Firm with a dedicated pro bono department
L-R Dali Mpofu, Candice Pillay (Hogan Lovells), Sushila Dhever (Fasken Martineau), Tricia Erasmus (Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr)

L-R Dali Mpofu, Candice Pillay (Hogan Lovells), Sushila Dhever (Fasken Martineau), Tricia Erasmus (Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr)

      • Fasken Martineau – for the domestic violence, refugee and housing matters it took on in 2015.
      • Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr – for its work at the ProBono.Org Refugee Legal clinic and several high profile matters.
      • Hogan Lovells – for its partnership with Probono.Org at the Police Brutality Legal Clinic and its involvement in clinics dealing with the rights of women and children.

Fasken Martineau was the winner in this category

 

 

    1. The constitutionalism award
Niren Tolsi, Sipho Kings

Niren Tolsi, Sipho Kings

      This award went to media players who advanced social justice through their work. There were two winners in this category – freelance journalist Niren Tolsi , and Sipho Kings, environmental reporter for the Mail & Guardian.

Fasken Martineau was the winner in this category

 

 

 

    1. The advocate award
Dali Mpofu with Isabel Goodman

Dali Mpofu with Isabel Goodman

      • Isabel Goodman. Advocate Goodman appeared in the Al-Bashir matter mentioned above and acted for the Legal Resources Centre in a matter interdicting a mining company from entering community land and threatening people (part of a larger dispute relating to the attempt by an Australian mining company to mine titanium along the Wild Coast).
      • Donrich Jordaan. During 2015, he acted as counsel in a number of cases on a pro bono basis that involved cutting edge legal developments including the law on surrogacy.
      • Luke Kelly was selected for his outstanding contribution to the work of Corruption Watch over the last three years. In the EFF and DA cases against the National Assembly the powers of the Public Protector were clarified in what could be considered to be a landmark decision.

The winner was Isabel Goodman.

 

    1. The Juta award to a student at a university law clinic.
Lindie Hein, Ashley Seckel, Mikhaile Brookes

Lindie Hein, Ashley Seckel, Mikhaile Brookes

      This award celebrates the dedication and commitment of students in assisting poor and vulnerable people.

      • Mikhaile Brookes (Wits Law Clinic)
      • Lindie Hein (University of Pretoria law clinic)
      • Ashley Seckel (University of Johannesburg law clinic)

The award went to Ashley Seckel

 

    1. Legal Aid South Africa (LASA) award
Antonel Olckers, Brian Nair, Patrick Hundermark

Antonel Olckers, Brian Nair, Patrick Hundermark

      • LASA selected a pro bono practitioner or service provider that showed dedication and commitment to undertaking pro bono work for Legal Aid SA during 2015. The practitioner award went to Tsepiso Matubatuba.
      • The service provider award was given to DNAbiotec®, which offers Awards finalists a screening service to legal professionals for section 212(4) (a) affidavits containing DNA evidence. The firm formalised this into an official pro bono service for Legal Aid South Africa a few years ago.

 

    1. Law Society of the Northern Provinces Award
Juvon Prinsloo, Anthony Millar

Juvon Prinsloo, Anthony Millar

      • LSNP President, Anthony Millar, presented the LSNP award to Juvon Prinsloo, who has taken on pro bono matters enthusiastically since opening her own firm.

 

 

 

 

 

    1. National Director’s Special Mentions
Tshenolo Masha, Bricks Mokolo

Tshenolo Masha, Bricks Mokolo

    • Ngwako Raboshakga, coordinator of the Alexandra Law Clinic run by ENSafrica. This clinic offers an invaluable legal service to residents of Alexandra.
    • Bricks Mokolo for his work in the community advice office sector, particularly at the Orange Farm Human Rights Advice Centre .
    • Henk Strydom who spends many pro bono hours and days on emotionally draining children’s matters and has taken on almost 40 cases during the past four to five years.
    • Baitseng Rangata of Maponya Attorneys for the many hours of work undertaken for communities in and around Pretoria.
    • Jeff Phahlamohlaka of Bowman Gilfillan – for his legal clinics, outreach work and SMME development work.
    • Advocate Kate Hofmeyr, who has undertaken cases involving hate crimes and attempts to muzzle the press amongst many others.

 

Ngwako Raboshakga, Erica Emdon

Ngwako Raboshakga, Erica Emdon


Henk Strydom (centre) with his family

Henk Strydom (centre) with his family


Dali Mpofu with some of the ProBono.Org staff and friends

Dali Mpofu with some of the ProBono.Org staff and friends

NGO social justice stories

At this year’s awards, we launched a new initiative to highlight the work of NGOs doing significant social justice work. We have dedicated a page on our website to their stories and we invite you to visit NGO Links on the site and see the important work that they are doing, ranging from environmental activism, protection of abused women, the right to education and strategic litigation on human rights and the rule of law. We hope to add more of these stories on the page as time goes on.

Award sponsors

Our major sponsors this year were Legal Aid South Africa, the Law Society of the Northern Provinces and Juta.

Our other generous sponsors were Spoor & Fisher Attorneys and AJS Business Management Systems.

LexisNexis and without prejudice provided financial as well as inkind trade sponsorship. Auditors Grant Thornton once again audited the nomination and judging process.

Spier donated wine, and The Hill provided the venue free of charge.

Thanks also to the following service providers:

Michele Dean of Limeblue for the design work; Lloyd Piater of The Natural Agent for digital assistance, Freshly Minced for production assistance; and Yolanda van der Stoep for photography.

AWARDS 2015

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The 2nd Annual Pro Bono Awards Ceremony: 17 September2015

The 2nd Annual Pro Bono Awards Ceremony was held at the Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg on 17 September 2015.

We were honoured to have the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela as our Keynote speaker.

Below is The Public Protector’s keynote speech:

Programme Director David Lewis

Leadership of ProBono.org

Esteemed guests

Ladies and gentlemen

 

Greetings from the Public Protector South Africa Team!

It is indeed a singular honour and privilege to join this esteemed gathering of our country’s legal minds and to say a few words on the importance of access to justice. I thank ProBono.org for involving me and my office and for bringing us together tonight to pay tribute to the champions of legal empowerment of the poor or disadvantaged persons.

Congratulations to all the winners. As you already know, through lifting others we lift ourselves. Congratulations are also due to all the nominees and others providing legal services to those who cannot afford. Just for doing the work you are doing advancing social justice by lifting others you too are winners. Your work is important.

I believe that to ensure that we have that inclusive, people centred and participatory democracy envisioned in our Constitution, we need to see more like you. We also need to see an improvement in the quality of legal advice dispensed to the poor. I’d also like to invite you to extend the reach of the legal advice and

assistance to the increasing diversity of dispute resolution forums in our landscape, which include my office, the Public Protector.

The timing of today’s celebration of champions of probono legal work as a vehicle for legal empowerment of the disadvantaged among us, neatly coincides with Access to Justice Week. When we initiated access to Justice Week as SAWLA and the Department of Justice in 2007, we did so like you, in recognition of the importance of extending legal services to the disadvantaged as part of broader access to justice.

Your role as providers of free legal advice and representation to those who cannot afford can never be overestimated. Access to justice, incorporating access to legal advice and or representation, is one of the essentials of the rule of law.

The Link Between Access to Justice and Legal Assistance

Our forward thinking Constitution promises everyone “the right to have their dispute resolved by the application of law decided in a fair public hearing before a court or, where appropriate, another independent and impartial tribunal or forum”. (Section 34)

I hope you will agree with me that the essence of access to justice is the opportunity for a victim of injustice or person involved in a dispute to readily access a forum that can listen to his or her grievance and/or resolve their dispute in a fair and expeditious manner that leads to redress where deserved.

I hope you will also agree with me that without a chance to understand or to be understood at whatever forum that deals with your grievance or dispute, there is no access to justice.

That is where probono legal services come in. In an utopically just world, none of us would ever be judged on the basis of laws we’ve never heard of or do not understand and in proceedings we do not understand. But it happens. When I was still working at Wits University, I remember a widow who related her story to us. She outlined how after the death of her customary law husband she was hauled to court in Benoni where she was told her marriage was invalid. She was

told to vacate a home she had shared for nearly two decades and personally renovated. She lost furniture she had paid for and a taxi and other cars she had paid for and had receipts to show. All she knew was the court number where everything happened. She did not know the capacity of the people who had dealt with her. Thanks to our Constitution and the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, such horror stories are rare today. But are they behind us?

What are the Implications of Lack of Access to Justice for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law?

Even during the darkest days of apartheid, access to justice opportunities minimised the sting of oppression. It was probono legal activities that helped the oppressed black majority challenge racial discrimination, forced removals and exclusion from democratic processes, among others. Some of the outcomes eased the suffering of the affected majority and pushed back the oppressive claws of apartheid. Examples in this regard include administrative justice, human rights and employment rights. In this regard, we recall the work of institutions such as the Legal Resources Centre, Lawyers for Human Rights and The Transvaal Rural Action Committee (TRAC), among others. We also remember the work of individual lawyers such as Cissie Gool, Braam Fischer, Sydney & Felicia Kentridge, Griffiths & Victoria Mxenge, Ismail Mahomed, George Bozos, Priscilla Jana, John Campbell and the recently departed Justices Pius Langa and Lewis Skweyiya, among many.

Why is it important that all experience access to justice?

The World Justice Forum, which places the rule of law at the centre of societal peace and progress, regards access to justice, incorporating legal empowerment of the poor, as an essential part of the rule of law. Part of it relates to the legitimacy of the state. I prefer to see it as our collective insurance for peace and stability. At the core of it is accountability. You will agree with me that democracy, progress and sustainable peace to be experienced by any society, its citizens should have mechanisms to have their grievances resolved fairly and wrongs redressed.

If people don’t think there are fair outlets for their grievances or disputes, they are likely to take the law into their hands. They may not do it today or tomorrow but they will eventually do it. The requirement of credible justice avenues also applies to people feeling that those who exercise entrusted public power are not treated as individuals or collectives unfairly. Where people believe they’ve been wronged, there must be a readily available independent platform to resolve the grievance or dispute fairly.

It’s not enough that the system is fair it must be manifestly or experienced as fair. This is another entry point for probono legal services. Free legal advice can and has over the years assisted by enhancing the right to understand and to be understood. In this regard ensuring legal empowerment of the poor, transcends legal advice/representation and includes legal education. The area of legal education though is one where we need improvement. Although there have always been services such as Street Law, I believe law students could be mobilised more meaningfully to make laws, particularly new laws, accessible to the public. Legal education also has the added dimension of preventing or reducing infringement.

Knowing the law and related regulatory frameworks empowers all to participate meaningfully in democracy, development and other societal processes. It further fosters respect for the rule of law.

The Public Protector as Part of our Access to Justice Architecture

We all understand that crime hurts and that both victims and accused persons deserve access to justice. Over the years we’ve also come to accept the importance of access to justice in civil matters. Regarding civil matters we’ve also invested a lot of resources in small claims courts to ensure that the average person, whom in my office we refer to as Gogo Dlamini, has a no frills forum to resolve his or her small but to him/her important civil disputes. The budget and number of small claims courts have rightly increased exponentially since the dawn or democracy.

But what about a Gogo Dlamini who is facing the state with its Goliath like bureaucratic power and resources? As you know disputes involving the state are excluded from the remit of the small claims court. In other words a Gogo Dlamini can take her neighbour to a small claims court for a small civil matter (R15 000.00) but if it’s the state she cannot do the same with government.

In my 6 years as Public Protector, I’ve come to realise that we underestimate the harm or injustice caused by maladministration and abuse of power in state affairs.

Fortunately the architects of our democracy knew that the state may harm people whether benevolently or maliciously. It was for this reason that innovative structures such as the Public Protector and other Institutions Supporting Constitutional Democracy, including the South African Human Rights Commission, Commission for Gender Equality, Electoral Commission, Commission on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities and the Auditor General, were given a special place in chapter 9 of our visionary Constitution.

Initially established in 1979 (In terms of the Advocate General Act 118 of 1979) as a graft buster, the office I head has undergone a metamorphosis over the years. A statutory body in the Department of Justice with no executive authority of its own, the Public Protector’s powers then were similar to the Auditor General’s and a commission of inquiry being to investigate, report and advise or recommend to those with power to execute, principally the Executive.

By 1991, the law-makers saw it fit to extend the office’s powers to include Ombudsman related violations such as maladministration, abuse of power, undue delay, etc. When the Interim Constitution was passed in 1993, it changed the name but not the functions of the office and so did the Public Protector Act of 1994.

It is worth noting that when the current Constitution was passed in 1996, the powers of the Public Protector were drastically changed to the following:

(1)The Public Protector has the power, as regulated by legislation-

  • To investigate any conduct in state affairs, or in the public administration in any sphere of government, that is alleged or suspected to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice;
  • To report on that conduct; and
  • To take appropriate remedial action.

(2) The Public Protector has additional powers and functions prescribed by national legislation.

(3) The Public Protector may not investigate court decisions.

(4) The Public Protector must be accessible to all persons and communities.

(5) Any report of the Public Protector must be open to the public unless exceptional circumstances, to be determined in terms of national legislation, require that report to be kept confidential”

From an access to justice point of view, my take is that the Constitution gives a Gogo Dlamini who chooses the Public Protector as an avenue to mediate power between her and the mighty bureaucratic state, a similar opportunity to the Gogo Dlamini who approaches to a small claims court to have her grievance or dispute resolved. I believe that access to justice for both Gogo Dlamini’s includes with redress or remedial action where deserved or injustice confirmed. I further believe that section 182(4) gives Gogo Dlamini the right to have the Public Protector properly funded and accessible like a small claims court, in proximity to all government service delivery centres. I am interested in your views.

Partnership Between the Public Protector and the Probono Legal Community

Although no legal assistance is required in approaching or dealing with my office, we’ve had a few occasions where disadvantaged persons have been assisted by lawyers. In some of the cases we all benefited immensely from the added insights. One case that comes to mind is one where the De Klerk Foundation provided probono assistance to a whistle-blower and another where Lawyers for Human Rights assisted a group of foreign nationals. I must indicate though, that the innovative nature of this office includes ability to frame the issues, find the

facts and establish the law or regulatory standard that should have been complied with by the state on our own. I must also hasten to indicate that in our case legality is not enough where state conduct results in patently unfair treatment or prejudice.

A word of caution for all of us

During one stakeholder hearing an MEC who deals with RDP housing and related service delivery injustices said “it is wrong to treat the poor poorly”. Often believe that because we are giving a gift, a gift horse is not to be looked in the mouth. But we may cause harm through giving an inappropriate gift or delivering it inappropriately. In this regard some of the cases that come to my office are not pro bono matters but simple cases of poor treatment of the disadvantaged who have paid for legal services. Key among the trends we have picked up, is violation of people’s agency, mostly through the lawyer proceeding to approach a case without input from the client and even settling it without consent. It is important to remember that just because a person is not a lawyer, it does not mean they are not smart, insightful nor have a view on a matter that involves their lives.

We should also be concerned about lawyers that feed the crocodile by defending the indefensible thus promoting maladministration and other forms of improper conduct, including corruption in state affairs. Apart from the fact that as a lawyer you are an officer of the court who must not mislead or allow the court to be misled, we are in the same boat. If you poke holes on my side of the boat, we’re both going to sink eventually, I may go first but you will follow.

Together taking constitutional democracy and the rule of law forward

It has been said that an engaged people is least likely to resort to violence in disputes with those that are entrusted with state power. It is also true that for people to be engaged they must know. Legal assistance in all its forms, including legal education, is accordingly a meaningful contributor to an engaged civil society and the rule of law.

Thank you again for involving me in this great occasion. More importantly, thank you for your contribution to an inclusive, socially just and fairer society. I’m

certain your work is taking us in the direction of the South Africa we want, the Africa we want and the world we all yearn for. That is the state affairs where everyone’s quality of life is improved and potential freed. That is the Constitutional dream. Our collective efforts are also contributing to a society where there is accountability, integrity and responsiveness.

Congratulations to the winners again. As a society we are grateful for your efforts in lifting others.

Thank You

 

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela

17 September 2015

The award finalists were:

1. Most Impactful case
Norton Rose Fulbright – Transkei land claim case
Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Inc. – Access to information – National Key Points
Webber Wentzel – Emolument Attachment Orders case
And the winner was Webber Wentzel

2. Individual Attorney
Egon Oswald – St Albans prison torture case
Sushila Dhever – Fasken Martineau – setting up domestic violence legal clinics in Soweto and Lenasia
Moray Hathorn, Webber Wentzel – 16 years of pro bono work
Congratulations to the winner, Moray Hathorn

3. Children’s Rights Defender
Hogan Lovells – Teddy Bear Clinic project – court preparation training
Webber Wentzel Pro Bono Practice Group – law reform in relation to children with mental illness
Bowman Gilfillan – work with ProBono.Org’s One Child a Year campaign
This was won by Hogan Lovells

4. Student at a university law clinic
Mxolisi Ngubane – Wits University Law Clinic
Kyle Lupke – KZN University Law Clinic
Danelle Prinsloo – Pretoria University Law Clinic
Danelle Prinsloo was the winner

5. Human Rights Champion
Centre for Environmental Rights – Vaal area environmental degradation
Rural Women’s Action Research Programme (RWAR) – opposing the Traditional Courts Bill
Southern Africa Litigation Centre – 4 cases in 2014, including Zimbabwean torture case
Congratulations to the winner, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre

6. Advocate award
This was won by Steven Budlender for his work with Corruption Watch and others

7. National Director’s Special Mentions
Albert Makwela – Community Advice Office work
Norman Moabi – work with Funanani Centre law project
Lesley Maman – work with the ProBono.Org Master’s Office help desks
Peter Jordi – Wits Law Clinic torture cases against the SAPS

AWARDS 2014

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Inaugural Pro Bono Awards Ceremony: 7 October 2014

The very first Annual Pro Bono Awards Ceremony in South Africa was held at the stylish Katy’s Palace Bar in Johannesburg on 7 October 2014. 150 attorneys, advocates and mediators attended the event that was ably MC-ed by attorney and social media expert Emma Sadleir.

The event was held to recognise the impressive contribution made by pro bono attorneys (part-time and full-time), law firms and advocates to the lives of low-income people in South Africa. Journalists reporting on pro bono cases, drawing the public’s attention to cases that change the lives of the poor, were also recognised.

The aim of the event was to honour and celebrate this important work and also increase and grow the involvement and commitment of the legal profession.

VIEW THE PROGRAMME HERE

The Judges

NIC SWART
Nic is the CEO of the Law Society of SA (LSSA) and the founder and director of Legal Aid and Development (LEAD), responsible for the professional training of attorneys. He is a member of various law faculties and sits on a number of boards. In addition, he practices as an attorney and mediator. He holds BA LLB and B Com degrees from the University of Pretoria and UNISA.

ALICE BROWN
Alice is an international human rights advocate and an expert on the use of law for the public good. She has extensive experience in civil rights litigation and social justice philanthropy and currently advises, speaks and does research on public interest law, philanthropy, social justice and non-governmental organisational effectiveness. She was the director of the Ford Foundation (South Africa) for many years. She holds a law degree from New York University and history degrees from Dartmouth College and North-western University.

JONATHAN KLAAREN
Jonathan is a Professor of Law at Wits University Law School and is based at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER). He served as Dean of the Wits Law School from 2010 – 2013 and as Director of the Mandela Institute from 2005 – 2007. He holds a PhD in sociology from Yale University and law degrees from Wits and Columbia Universities.

 

AUDITOR: GRANT THORNTON
Grant Thornton (previously Kessel Feinstein) is the fifth largest auditing, tax, outsourcing and advisory firm in South Africa, with 10 offices across the country.

The Judging Process

The 3 judges reviewed all nomination forms submitted. The awards were allocated on the basis of pro bono hours (firms, attorneys, advocates) and the number of words (media). The law firm hours were aggregated according to the number of professionals in each firm. The judging process and decisions were reviewed and audited by Grant Thornton to ensure non-partiality, fairness and correctness.

Keynote Speaker: Judge Kathleen Satchwell
Kathie Satchwell was a student activist at Rhodes University during the apartheid years, playing a support role for Steve Biko and other detainees. She practised as an attorney for 18 years, during which time she dealt with pass law courts with the Black Sash and CALS, representing detainees, political activists, prisoners and conscientious objectors. She appeared at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, presenting a memorandum on human rights abuses. She was appointed to the bench in 1996, and since then has handed down many innovative and path-breaking judgements. She has had a long association with a number of NGOs (POWA, Black Sash, Learn and Teach and Media Defence Trust) and is currently a Trustee of the Nelson Mandela’s Children Fund.

Award Categories, Finalists and Winners

Law Firm Awards
Presented by Nicolette Naylor, Senior Programme Officer, Ford Foundation

Highest number of pro bono hours by law firm with over 50 professionals
AWARD SPONSORED BY without prejudice

WINNER: Fasken Martineau
Fasken Martineau has a long history of involvement in pro bono work, initially during apartheid as Bell Dewar and Hall. In 2010 a dedicated pro bono department was established. The pro bono department provides legal advice and representation in employment, housing, refugee, maintenance and domestic violence matters. All the attorneys in the firm participate in pro bono work.

FINALIST: Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa
Norton Rose Fulbright SA sees itself as a firm with a commitment to social responsibility and human rights work. Its work in this arena dates back to the 1980s. The firm has consistently offered advice and legal representation, not only to low-income individuals and communities, but to non-governmental community based organisations, trusts, charities and foundations.

FINALIST: Webber Wentzel
In 2003, Webber Wentzel established a pro bono department to provide free legal services to a variety of communities. The pro bono practice provides legal services on issues related to land reform, housing, education, healthcare, children’s rights, gender equality and service provision. One of their core projects aims to secure constitutional equality for women.

Highest number of pro bono hours by law firm with 10 to 50 professionals

WINNER: Mervyn Taback Inc
Mervyn Taback Inc’s pro bono work covers labour matters and including litigation, arbitration, the drafting of documents and appearing in court and tribunals for clients. In 2013 the firm successfully litigated against the Ford Motor Company South Africa, securing a favourable settlement for 13 former employees. Directors of the firm sit in court as acting judges on a pro bono basis.

FINALIST: Schindlers Attorneys
Schindlers Attorneys offers a range of services in legal areas including commercial, litigation, conveyancing, labour, intellectual property and consumer law. Schindlers has been working to save the Zoo Lake Bowling Club and as recently as September 2014 secured an order halting the eviction of the tenants. The firm represents Stobbs and Clark who are seeking to have medical marijuana legalised.

Highest number of pro bono hours by law firm with less than 10 professionals

WINNER: Mabaso Attorneys
Mabaso Attorneys deals exclusively with employment and labour law issues. The firm has been involved in a great many pro bono cases. Some have involved obtaining writs of execution in order to enforce compensation awards; others have involved opposing review applications. The firm has litigated against both private and government employers for their clients.

FINALIST: Clarks Attorneys
Clarks Attorneys provides legal assistance in an array of family law matters. The firm staffs ProBono.Org’s Domestic Violence Legal Clinic at the Randburg Magistrate’s Court. In addition to staffing the clinic and representing pro bono clients referred to them by ProBono.Org, Clarks takes on matters referred to the firm by the Law Society of the Northern Provinces.

FINALIST: Dlamini Attorneys
Dlamini Attorneys’ expertise includes corporate litigation, labour law, energy law and competition law. Despite being a corporate firm, Dlamini Attorneys makes a point of providing advice and representation to low income clients. Pro bono work is further used as a teaching opportunity for candidate attorneys

Individual Attorney Awards
Presented by Nicolette Naylor, Senior Programme Officer, Ford Foundation

Highest number of pro bono hours by a full-time pro bono attorney

WINNER: Tricia Erasmus (DLA Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr)
Tricia Erasmus is a senior associate in the pro bono department at DLA Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr. Her areas of expertise include refugee law, access to information, general High Court litigation, constitutional and human rights law. She has been instrumental in the case of SAHA and R2K v Minister of Police and Another, where she assisted the applicants in bringing a High Court review application in terms of PAIA to provide information on places or areas declared as a National Key Point Complex in terms of the National Key Points Act.

FINALIST: Moray Hathorn (Webber Wentzel)
Moray Hathorn was appointed to head the pro bono department at Webber Wentzel in 2003. Using constitutional and administrative law, Moray has guided the department to also take on cases related to gender based violence, traditional leadership, HIV discrimination in the workplace, post-restitution support to land reform beneficiaries and evictions. Moray and his team represented the Protea South informal settlement in eviction proceedings against the City of Johannesburg. The matter was heard by Justice Wright in the South Gauteng High Court and resulted in an interdict (to stop demolitions) and an order to provide interim basic services to the indigent households.

FINALIST: Ayanda Khumalo (Webber Wentzel)
Ayanda Khumalo is a senior associate in the pro bono department at Webber Wentzel in Sandton. She actively deals with issues related to socio-economic rights, administrative law, labour law, insurance litigation, non-profit organisations and refugees. Ayanda recently represented a vocal gay rights activist, Dr Semugoma facing improper deportation to Uganda and persecution under the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The legal intervention by Ayanda ultimately led to Dr Semugoma being granted a specialised skills work permit in February 2014.

Highest number of Pro Bono hours by a PART-TIME PRO BONO ATTORNEY

WINNER: Elze Lamprecht (Norton Rose Fulbright SA)
Elze carries out her pro bono work at the same time as running a busy practice. In her own words: “I believe that giving back to society is not a responsibility; it’s the only way of living that makes sense. There are vulnerable people in society whose rights we must protect. I feel privileged to be used for this purpose. The pro bono matter I’ve been involved with has brought home to me how critically important it is to fight for the rights of victims of abuse in a country like ours.”

Sandile Mabaso (Mabaso Attorneys)
Despite working at a relatively small firm, Sandile completed many hours of pro bono work in 2013. Work of this volume for a small firm entails not only an enormous sacrifice of time, but also of financial resources. As a labour law specialist, Sandile took on many matters from the SASLAW advice office, staffing it regularly, making himself available on short notice, and offering assistance at the Labour Court.

FINALIST: Tiny Musesengwa (Bowman Gilfillan)
Pro bono clients have benefited from Tiny’s specialised knowledge of corporate law, through her work at Ishishini Lethu (a legal clinic for SMMEs) and for other NPOs. Tiny has also ventured out of her comfort zone, dedicating significant hours to family law, domestic violence and housing law, areas that go to the heart of the struggles of poor people in South Africa.

ADVOCATE AWARD
Presented by Advocate Aboobaker SC, Chair of the Pro Bono Committee, General Bar Council

Highest number of pro bono hours by an advocate

WINNER: NADINE FOURIE
Nadine is an advocate in Group One who serves on the group’s Pro Bono Committee. She is available to assist Cliffe Decker Hofmeyr on a regular basis in finding suitable counsel for their pro bono matters. Her areas of expertise include constitutional and human rights law, public and administrative law, labour, pension fund and media law.

FINALIST: EMILE VAN DER MERWE
Emile is a junior advocate based at Pitje Chambers, Johannesburg. He has demonstrated remarkable commitment to pro bono work and has frequently been congratulated by judges, magistrates and other lawyers for his eagerness to assist on a pro bono basis. He has taken on numerous time-consuming intestate and estate related matters with a commitment to the children, widows and others left behind.

FINALIST: CATHERINE WELSCH
Catherine is an advocate based in Johannesburg. She has assisted with a number of matters at the Pro Bono.Org Family Law Clinic. Her most notable case was related to the murder of Brenda Hedges by the estranged husband of the deceased’s daughter. Catherine worked tirelessly for over a year to obtain Domestic Violence Protection orders and to ensure that the accused was arrested and the matter brought to trial.

Media Award
Award sponsored by LexisNexis
Presented by Ferial Haffajee, editor, City Press

Most comprehensive coverage by a journalist of pro bono legal cases or projects

2014 WINNER: Victoria John (Mail & Guardian)
The Legal Resources Centre nominated Victoria for her extensive, in depth and excellent coverage of all issues relating to children and the right to education. Her coverage of education cases, including the LRC’s class action against the Department of Education, Eastern Cape, has kept one of the greatest post-apartheid challenges in South Africa in the public eye. She writes regular columns on children’s rights, drawing attention to the multitude of problems faced by children.

FINALIST: Shain Germaner (The Star)
Shain ensured that ProBono.Org’s One-Child-a-Year campaign received the spotlight and was given good coverage in the press. He recently became involved in reporting cases handled by ProBono.Org and wrote an in-depth piece on one particular woman’s plight. Shain’s focus on the most vulnerable sectors of society and his detailed article, which went beyond reporting and analysis to also telling the stories of victims of domestic violence, cannot be underrated at a time when people often become statistics.

FINALIST: Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele (De Rebus)
Writing for a magazine which targets the legal profession, Nomfundo has played a crucial role in cultivating an awareness of and enthusiasm for pro bono work amongst its members. She has written countless articles on pro bono work, its importance, and how to go about it. In this way, Nomfundo, as a legal journalist, has also played an integral role in access to justice for poor people in South Africa.

PRO BONO.ORG’S NATIONAL DIRECTOR’S SPECIAL MENTIONS: 2014

Patrick Bracher of Norton Rose Fulbright SA, for his 8-year commitment to hosting ProBono.Org’s Constitutional Law radio programme every fortnight on Radio Today.

Christine Jesseman for her service on the Board of ProBono.Org and her exceptional role at DLA Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr in promoting and actively assisting pro bono matters.

Hoosen Sader of Saders Attorneys, for his long-standing and lifelong dedication to pro bono work, which started during the apartheid years and has continued unabated.

Teresa Swart, Magistrate at the Germiston Children’s Court, for going beyond the call of duty in ensuring that children in her court are treated with respect and dignity and are properly represented.

Alfred Wolpe of South African Mediators cc, for his involvement in providing pro bono mediations and training for ProBono.Org and our beneficiaries for the past 8 years.

Event Sponsors

The Ford Foundation took the plunge earlier this year by contributing significant funding towards this inaugural Pro Bono Awards Ceremony. We greatly appreciate their firm commitment to the work of ProBono.Org, as well as to the importance of this event for the legal profession.

We also greatly value the contributions of the other sponsors:
Legal publishers Sabinet, Juta, LexisNexis, Legalbrief and Without Prejudice all provided financial sponsorships, as well as in-kind trade sponsorship. Legal Aid SA and 8 Johannesburg-based law firms (Bowman Gilfillan, ENS, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, Fasken Martineau, Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright SA, Webber Wentzel and Werksmans) all provided financial sponsorship.

Katy’s Palace Bar provided the grand and spacious venue at a heavily discounted rate and Spier donated cases of red and white wine.

We would like to acknowledge and thank the following service providers:
Michele Dean of Limeblue for the design work and beautiful photographs; Lloyd Piater of The Natural Agent for the digital expertise; Freshly Minced for organising the event with such excellent and calm efficiency; and The Principality for their PR and media services.

Thanking our Pretoria pro bono lawyers

by Neo Chokoe.

 

Screen-Shot-2017-04-24-at-1.36.30-PMOn 6 April 2017 ProBono. Org Pretoria hosted its first Lawyers Appreciation Ceremony to say thank you to the lawyers that have done pro bono work in collaboration with its office. The event was attended by 38 guests including Judge Mudau from the Gauteng Division, Johannesburg.

The Pretoria manager, Neo Chokoe welcomed the guests and thanked the sponsors who made the event possible through their donations. They were Maponya Inc, R W Attorneys, Savage Jooste & Adams, Lexis Nexis, Gildenhuys Malatji, Hahn & Hahn, Rudolph Jansen SC and R O Waters.

Ms Baitseng Rangata, the CEO of Maponya Inc and Secretary General of the Black Lawyers Association addressed the gathering on the importance of serving members of the community on a pro bono basis. She mentioned that the Black Lawyers Association is committed to pro bono work and will continue to encourage its members to do more. She stressed that it feels good just to be appreciated and that a ‘’thank you’’ goes a long way even when it does not come with monetary reward.

Ms Erica Emdon, the National Director of ProBono. Org, thanked the lawyers for their commitment to pro bono work before handing out the certificates of appreciation.

 

DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE APRIL 2017 NEWSLETTER

Celebrating Human Rights Day with children<br/> – 21 March 2017

Celebrating Human Rights Day with children
– 21 March 2017

by Elsabe Steenhuisen.

A special day for the children in homes in the inner city of Johannesburg was organised by Lefika La Phodiso at the restaurant area at Constitution Hill. One of the organisations participating was the Art Therapy Centre, which uses art to assist children to deal with their emotions, to develop self-esteem and to develop skills in art.

The theme was about safe spaces and what is required to create a safe physical and emotional environment for children, in line with the Constitution.

The guest speakers were Advocate Elsabe Steenhuisen of ProBono.Org and Luke Lamprecht, a social worker who chairs the Johannesburg Child Advocacy Forum (JCAF).

Elsabe Steenhuisen demonstrated to the children how the law is creating safe spaces for children in need. She filled a glass bottle with sand, stones and water to illustrate that the law keeps children safe just as the bottle keeps the stones. Children should know that even if a situation seems hopeless, the law can still create a safe space, like the sand and water that finds a gap between the little stones.

Luke Lamprecht conducted a question and answer session on the rights of children. The children talked about food, shelter, education, love, discipline, guidance, protection, respect, a safe environment and the time to play.

The event ended with lunch and music by Zwai Bala.

 

DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE APRIL 2017 NEWSLETTER

Partnering for a good cause<br/> – upcoming Durban Event

Partnering for a good cause
– upcoming Durban Event

by Shamika Dwarika.

Violence against women takes various forms and ProBono.Org sees the impact of violence and abuse of women at our numerous help desks at all our offices. That is why ProBono.Org Durban has partnered with the 1000Women Initiative to be the local host and beneficiary of the 1000 Women event in 2017. The 1000 Women Initiative aims to mobilise “1000 Women to Unite against Domestic Violence”.

This event was launched in 2004 in Cape Town and today hosts three events nationally, in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. The objective is to raise awareness about genderbased violence and to assemble resources so that women have access to skills and training. The profits from these events go to women-led organisations that facilitate change in their communities. On 3 November 2016, ProBono.Org Durban attended the 1000 Women Initiative event for the first time where we were able to witness the relevance and impact of this event. Having seen the potential of this organisation, we are delighted to partner with them.

The Durban event will be an enjoyable brunch on 18 August 2017. Tickets will be sold at R350.00 per person, or R3000.00 per table of ten. All proceeds from the event will go to ProBono.Org to support workshops we hold on domestic violence, our domestic violence help desks, and women clients who are experiencing domestic violence. There will be guest speakers and a variety of entertainment, and attendees will have an opportunity to network. We encourage you to support this campaign and take a stand against domestic violence and abuse. Watch this space for developments such as an announcement of the venue and where tickets will be available.

Litigating for Social Change Conference:<br/> 19 – 21 October 2016

Litigating for Social Change Conference:
19 – 21 October 2016

by Erica Emdon.


A conference was held in Belfast during October bringing together NGOs, community activists, litigators, academics and funders to reflect on the extent to which strategic litigation can transform lives and enable people and communities to realise their rights. With speakers from different geographic and legal settings, the conference explored:

  • Lessons learnt from the use of test case litigation to date
  • Strategic litigation as a tool for promoting social justice
  • Models and approaches to supporting strategic litigation

A session was held that dealt with a range of different models by which strategic litigation can be supported as a tool for realising social justice. I was asked to consider the role of pro bono attorneys and advocates in supporting strategic litigation and the relative advantages and disadvantages of the pro bono model.

There was great interest in the pro bono model, particularly in the context of the diminishing funding available from the state in the UK and other countries to fund civil legal services for the poor.

I gave a brief history of ProBono.Org and how it was set up originally with Atlantic Philanthropies funding. I looked at how ProBono.Org is part of a wider spectrum of organisations providing access to justice, stating that we are demand driven and not in a position to select matters. However we are in a position to use the high numbers of cases opened to lead us towards impact litigation. I covered a range of issues in my talk including the following –

  • The fact that in South Africa we have been helped by the pro bono rule and the situation that some firms have pro bono departments, some with great litigation capacity;
  • That the size of a law firm determines to some extent the type of pro bono work they do, with small firms undertaking individual matters and the larger more well resourced to take on impact cases;
  • The individual work done by lawyers in both the big and small firms often has a high impact on one person’s life in, for example, domestic violence, refugee, undocumented minors, labour and housing matters, to name but a few;
  • Because the bulk of our matters are individual matters, we see it as our job to identify patterns and trends and to try to intervene. Our intervention could be by lobbying for improvements in legislation, policy and the administration of the law, and includes making submissions on these. In some cases the high volume of cases enables us to identify matters for litigation. The individual matters can end up generating a strategic litigation case;
  • Pro bono work carried out by small practitioners can have a wide reach geographically, moving out of the cities. We have been able to recruit pro bono lawyers in small towns to assist rurally based community paralegals.

Limits of pro bono involvement in strategic litigation:

  • For small firms it is a capacity issue. Strategic litigation can take years to finalise and involves a major commitment by the firm to channel significant resources to support the case. There are exceptions. For instance Egon Oswald, a single practitioner of Egon Oswald Attorneys, acted for a torture victim McCallum and 230 others from the St Albans Prison when serious allegations of torture were made against about 50 warders at the prison. Oswald has devoted years to this matter since it started in 2005, funded the litigation himself at the cost of his own practice and reaped no financial reward. In 2015 he spent 55 days in the Port Elizabeth High Court representing the first two of 231 potential plaintiffs.
  • Bigger firms are more likely to take on the impact cases, but there are challenges, particularly if a conflict of interest arises. This happens particularly when the firm has banks, mining companies and municipalities as clients. The Chinese wall is not
    used in South Africa.
  • For all firms, big and small, there is frequently an unspoken ideological identification by the firms with the powers that be, whether they are the state, big corporates, banks or companies in the lending market. There might be a reluctance to challenge the status quo. An example is the discomfort private firms have in doing bail applications for students and other protestors, because they are viewed as violent and unruly.
  • Another reason that firms do not undertake strategic litigation is that they are frequently not knowledgeable about the strategic litigation process and the steps to take.

Having said that, there are anumber of very interesting examples of impact litigation matters that have been undertaken by private sector legal professionals from big firms on a pro bono basis.

 

Cases:

The Omar Al-Bashir case.

Webber Wentzel represented the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Helen Suzman Foundation in their challenge regarding the South African government’s failure to arrest and detain the president of the Republic of the Sudan, Mr Omar Al-Bashir in June 2015. Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and genocide. The South African government was obliged to arrest President Al-Bashir when he came onto South African territory in terms of the Rome Statute, which it failed to do. The case was heard in the high court, then the Supreme Court of Appeal. The judgment held that the failure of the government to arrest Al-Bashir was unlawful. The state appealed to the Constitutional Court, then withdrew.

National Key Points matter.

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr acted in the Right2Know Campaign/ SAHA in the National Key Points case. Right2Know and SAHA had requested information on National Key Points from the state, which was not forthcoming. The court ordered the minister to release the list of National Key Points. This case was a great victory for access to information and accountability to the public.

University of Stellenbosch Legal Aid Clinic and others – Emolument Attachment Orders case.

Webber Wentzel acted in this matter that ended up in the Constitutional Court. The judgment in this case will have a significant impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who have amounts deducted from their salaries every month to pay for debts incurred. As a result of this case, the manner in which Emolument Attachment Orders are administered through our courts will be overhauled to protect debtors.

Arthurstone Village Community case.

Norton Rose Fulbright SA successfully acted on behalf of the 150 indigent and vulnerable residents of Arthurstone, in Mpumalanga, who were unlawfully evicted from their homes on a communal farm by the tribal authority. The court found that the eviction and demolition order was unlawful and set it aside, ordering the tribal authority to construct temporary habitable dwellings and thereafter permanent housing equivalent to the housing they had occupied previously.

The Mgungundlovu Land Claims case.

This case proceeded for 19 years and Norton Rose Fulbright SA worked on it for the last 5, resulting in a remarkable victory for the 100 odd families whose land, which their community had lived on since time immemorial, was taken away. The land, situated along a beach with exceptionally fertile land, was made available to the Transkei Sun, whose lease required it to pay the community R30 000 per annum. The award that Norton Rose managed to secure for the community last year was an annual rental of R4m, escalating at 6% per annum, and a R50m settlement amount from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. This was an overwhelming victory for the community.