The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ) has sought to tackle high incidents of discrimination and hate speech by raising awareness on the 46 equality courts currently in the Western Cape. With the right to equality firmly enshrined in the South African constitution, the department’s regional head Adv. Hishaam Mohammed said the courts would be able to tackle any incidents of unfair discrimination, be it on the grounds of race, sexual orientation, social origin, disability, or religion.
“You don’t need an attorney. If you are discriminated against, you can go to the clerk of the court at any of the designated courts we have. Any person acting on behalf of you, or acting in the interest of the public, can also approach the court,” he explained.
Mohammed noted that court proceedings would run on a very informal process, unlike regular courts where rules and evidence were vital. The idea, according to him, would be to try and act as a mediator between the respective parties.
“The court does make an order and a suitable remedy to the victims, through either a public apology, or through the paying of a compensation for unfair treatment that has been received,” he said.
He insisted the equality courts would truly give life to the constitutional value that “all shall be equal before the law”.
During the week ahead, the department will be partnering with a number of local NGO’s to provide free legal advice to communities across the province. The move forms part of the DOJ’s annual Access to Justice Week.
“This year we have a number of legal fraternity members and attorneys mobilised, and we aim to make the law more accessible to the disadvantaged communities in our areas,” said Mohammed.
Community members will be given the opportunity to have one on one interactions with qualified legal professionals, at various centres across the province. Amongst the issues that will be addressed are family law matters, domestic violence issues, matrimonial matters, child custody, and maintenance.
Centres will be open in Athlone, Elsies River, Manenberg, Gugulethu, Mitchell’s Plain, Heideveld, and Langa amongst others. They will be open to all on the 28th and 29th August from 9am onwards.
For more information on your nearest legal centre, you may contact Adv. Hishaam Mohammed at 021 462 5471. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)