March against Xenophobia

By Muchengeta Hwacha, Johannesburg intern

 

On 4 September 2019, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) called an emergency meeting to address the spate of violence that had erupted against foreign nationals. Civil society, faith based organisations, trade unions and community leaders heeded the call and gathered at Constitution Hill. The large turnout was unexpected and the organisers were forced to change the venue twice to accommodate the numbers.

The gathering was eventually ushered into an open air courtyard of the former prison and a discussion ensued on how to tackle this fresh scourge of violence. Many shared various ideas on how to address the current challenges facing foreign nationals. The one idea that seemed to garner the most support was that of a march in the inner city to show support to the victims of the violence.

As a result, on 14 September the participants gathered again, this time bringing along a mass of supporters. An estimated 1 000 people marched from Joubert Park through Hillbrow and onto Mary Fitzgerald Square. The march seemed to strike a chord with the residents of Hillbrow, as some were seen weeping as they witnessed the march proceed under their windows and balconies. Given the level of trauma suffered by many in that community, their reaction was understandable but heartbreaking. The march proceeded with high levels of discipline from attendees. It was well covered by the media and well protected by the S A Police Services.

 

Click here for our complete October 2019 Newsletter

Civil Society Forum at the Pan-African Parliament on the theme of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced People

Civil Society Forum at the Pan-African Parliament on the theme of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced People

By Muchengeta Hwacha, Johannesburg intern

 

The Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), invited ProBono.Org to participate in a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Forum on the sidelines of the third ordinary session of the Fifth PAP legislature.

The CSO Forum was invited to engage on the African Union theme ‘The Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced People’. The adoption of this theme comes at a time when there has been an increase in the number of incidents of xenophobic violence and related intolerances across the continent.

The forum sought to discuss and develop:

  • Avenues for countering
    xenophobic violence;
  • Enhancing protection for refugees; and
  • Mobilising effectively in protecting displaced populations.

After much discussion, civil society organisations committed themselves to continue to use the forum to advance the agenda of anti-xenophobia, internally displaced people and refugees.

 

Click here for our complete October 2019 Newsletter

Children’s Project – training for legal practitioners

By Elsabe Steenhuisen

 

1. Short dialogues

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

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

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

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

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

2. Workshops in Children’s Court practice

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

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

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

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

 

Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter

HCI Foundation Workshop

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

 

Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter

Women’s Day 2019

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

 

Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter

Amnesty International Youth Assembly

Amnesty International Youth Assembly

By Muchengeti Hwacha, Johannesburg intern.

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

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

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

 

Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter

Participation in Africa Month

Participation in Africa Month

By Muchengeti Hwacha, Johannesburg Intern.

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

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

 

The events included:

Youth Engagement at the University of Pretoria

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

Youth Dialogue at the Diepkloof Welfare Centre

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

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

Stakeholder Dialogue at the Constitution Hill Precinct

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

Africa Day Festival at the Catholic Archdiocese, Doornfontein

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

The following organisations participated:

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

Click here for our complete June 2019 Newsletter

<strong>Durban’s</strong> Appreciation Day

Durban’s Appreciation Day

Legal practitioners and stakeholders with whom we work gathered at the IIE’s Varsity College Durban North on Friday 26 April for our annual Appreciation Day event. This event is held to give recognition and thanks to legal practitioners who have made an exceptional contribution in rendering pro bono legal services to those who cannot afford them. It is heartwarming to see that despite no formalised rule from the Legal Practice Council making it compulsory to undertake a specified number of pro bono hours as yet, legal practitioners who are committed to a transformed and better society for all have continued to do so. These dedicated practitioners are to be commended and it is to be hoped that they will inspire others to emulate them.

Our keynote speaker was the esteemed Professor Karthy Govender who gave a thought-provoking talk. Amongst other things, he spoke about pushing back against the globilisation of indifference and assisting without getting something in return, which many attendees described as inspiring.

An event like this can never be a success without our kind and generous sponsors, which included IIE’s Varsity College Durban North, The Image Factor, Farrell Inc., Isibani Chartered Accountants and Auditors, Durban Property Finance, Virgin Action | Collection, PPS and Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, to name a few. A huge thank you goes out to all of them!

 

Click here for our complete June 2019 Newsletter

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

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