The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD) has mobilized 100 attorneys together with NGOs and Advice Offices to render free legal advice as part of their access to Justice week initiative. Department Head, Advocate Hisham Mohamed says this initiative is aimed at bringing legal consultation to the doorstep of the most impoverished communities on the cape flats, free of charge. The project, backed by an ever-growing group of individuals from the legal fraternity is an annual initiative.
“This is a national programme which is being rolled out throughout the country. Our legal fraternity is using this opportunity to plough back into society as part of their pro bono services. Each individual will receive an hour of free consultation which will already save them from R500 to R1200,” Mohamed said.
Most of the legal advice sought centres around domestic violence, maintenance, dealing with child abuse, National Credit Act and Debt, Small Claims Court and Equality Court matters amongst others. Lawyers from different parts of the province and in different areas of expertise will all collectively participate with the community on a one-on-one basis.
“We believe that this collective effort will go a long way to alleviate the plight of the poorest of the poor. We hope that this also leads to other professionals volunteering their services to those downtrodden in our society,” Mohamed added.
As members of the community cannot afford the hefty lawyer’s fees, Mohamed explained that since this initiative has been implemented in 2013, there has been a massive outcry for legal assistance.
“We have seen queues where people seek legal advice or even just assistance to be connected to the right entity of the state such as appointments with the family advocate offices. More importantly we are able to assist and empower specifically woman who face domestic abuse as this first consultation is free of charge,” Mohamed continued.
At the briefing was a group of representatives from the Cape Bar Council, Law Society, Government departments as well as private attorneys.
There are 18 designated advice offices spread throughout the Mother city. Worcester, Heideveld, Manenberg, Bontheuwel, Phillipi, Elsies River, Gugulethu, Ikwezi Yamo, Mitchells Plain, Atlantis, Grabouw and many other areas in the southern suburbs.
Mohamed says all lawyers are expected to offer at least two hours pro bono and has called on other attorneys who have not yet joined the call to show their support and offer their legal services to those in need. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)