In February 2013, ProBono.Org in partnership with the South African Federation of Mental Health (‘SAFMH’) and in association with Webber Wentzel have launched a new service whereby ProBono.Org and Webber Wentzel will assist SAFMH with legal support for persons with mental disabilities in SA. This will ensure a valuable service which is within the public interest.
In its 90 years of existence, SAFMH has had many encounters with Mental Health Care Users (‘MHCU’) who, for various reasons, have been in need of legal assistance because of issues such as abuse and violations of their human rights. The media often reports cases where persons with mental illness or intellectual disabilities are prosecuted without the required legal assistance. Some cases involve persons who have been abused within their family environments, or even by service
providers who are meant to be supporting these individuals.
MHCUs in need of legal assistance will contact Ivy Masilela, Programme Manager at the National Office for the SAFMH. Ms Masilela will conduct a preliminary interview with the MHCU and assess the situation. If Ms Masilela determines that legal assistance is indeed necessary, she will put the MHCU in contact with ProBono.Org who, after assessing the merits of the matter, will refer the matter to an attorney, thereby assuring that the MHCU’s legal needs are met.
On Thursday 24th January, ProBono.Org in partnership with FAMSA held a workshop on housing and employment law. The workshop was presented by Reghana Tulk from Bell Dewar. The event gathered an audience of approximately 50 people, mostly women from the community.
Following a short opening sermon from a member of the community, ProBono.Org’s intern, Faith Tigere, introduced Reghana to the audience. Reghana commenced her presentation by explaining that ProBono.Org Housing Clinic assists people with very limited income with free legal advice. Reghana was an engaging and dynamic speaker, who gave empowering information to the audience covering eviction processes, court orders and family housing arrangements.
The clear explanation that Reghana gave about the processes that a landlord must take to lawfully evict seemed particularly worthwhile, to the extent that any incorrectly held beliefs about who can evict a person were dispelled. She also emphasised the need to bring all relevant documents when attending appointments at the Clinic, so that the assistance provided can be as thorough and efficient as possible.
Due to requests from the audience who were keen to find out some information on wills, Reghana and Faith also answered some questions regarding the drafting of wills and encouraged the audience who wanted legal assistance in drafting their wills to make an appointment with ProBono.Org.
As the year draws to an end and we look back, we see goodwill and dedication to pro bono on the part of the legal profession.
ProBono.Org gives legal professionals an opportunity to become involved in training, in staffing our help desks and clinics, in taking on matters, giving opinions, appearing in court, mediating disputes, appearing on our radio show and more.
Our newsletters over the past year reflect the diversity of the work we do and the involvement of law firms and advocates in this. Together we achieve great things for our society. May this good work continue next year, unabated.
you a happy, safe festive season and look forward to working with you in 2013.
by Odette Geldenhuys
Legal practice in South Africa is transforming. There are at least two drivers for this: BEE compliance and pro bono legal services.
Some perceive these measures as onerous and limiting. Part of this negative thinking is to consider these measures as unrelated burdens imposed externally on doing business. For example, Keith Levenstein, the CEO of EconoBEE, a BEE advisory firm, summarises this view, “While some businesses choose to undertake the empowerment process, the reality is that most businesses obtain a verification certificate only because their customers request it.” (The Citizen, 16 October 2012, http://www.citizen.co.za/citizen/content/en/citizen/business) In relation to pro bono legal services, there is sometimes a misunderstanding as to its purpose, and it is therefore relegated to file 13.
However, incorporating BEE compliance and pro bono legal services in the culture of the law firm, is not only the right thing to do, it is also good for business.
16 Days of Activism – Presented by Amanda Van Logerenberg
On 5 October 2012 ProBono.Org in partnership with Community of the Victim Support held a workshop that was aimed at empowering women on domestic violence. The workshop was held at the Community Hall in Meadowlands. 52 people attended.
The presenter was Amanda van Loggerenberg from Wynand Du Plessis Inc. She explained that domestic violence includes physical, emotional, verbal, and financial abuse as well as intimidation and threatening behavior.
She thereafter explained that it is important to note that courts do not permit any form of abuse. It is best to set out in detail exactly happened as it helps the courts to get a clear picture of the matter. Children can be included in the protection order, if the abuser is extending the abuse to the children.
She informed the attendees that a protection order is only effective once it has been served on the respondent by either the sheriff or the police. On the first appearance an interim order is granted with a return date. On the return date the respondent will be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations of domestic violence.