Motivated by a strong sense of civic responsibility and a desire to give a voice to the voiceless, the staff of the Legal Aid Clinic is making a difference in the lives of the individuals they serve and contributing to the upliftment of communities.
As part of Women's Month celebrations at SU, the Corporate Communication Division spoke to the women at the Legal Aid Clinic.
What is the mandate of the Legal Aid Clinic?
The Legal Aid Clinic supports communities that are unable to afford legal advice services by providing access to free, effective and quality legal services, including litigation. With an overtly rural focus, a large proportion of those accessing services from the clinic are farmworkers across the Cape Winelands District.
The clinic also operates a financial literacy programme with the Department of Economics that focuses on empowering financially illiterate individuals through the development of financial skills. We also provide farmworkers and support staff on neighbouring farms with human rights training and information relating to consumer rights and responsibilities and relevant legal processes involved in credited / consumer-related matters.
Why is it so important for legal aid clinics to exist in our communities?
Access to justice, especially in view of historical injustices, is the driving force behind the operations of the Legal Aid Clinic. The Legal Aid Clinic is an important institution insofar as educating rural communities on their constitutional rights and addressing human rights violations through free professional legal services.
The clinic is also important because it offers to law students the opportunity to develop practical skills in a clinical setting. Students consult with clients, write letters and draft pleadings under the supervision of attorneys and candidate attorneys and they also participate in moot court activities. More importantly, it offers students a front-row seat to the access-to-justice crisis in the Cape Winelands District.
What is unique about your approach at the Legal Aid Clinic?
The clinic's practitioners have a uniquely ingrained desire to truly contribute towards a human rights culture by improving access to justice and socio-economic rights for vulnerable and marginalised people in rural communities through free legal advice services and precedent-setting impact litigation.
Are there any cases of note that the Legal Aid Clinic has been involved in and won?
We have been central in initiating impact litigation, such as the emolument attachment case in which the Constitutional Court ruled, with effect from 13 September 2016, that no emoluments attachment order may be issued unless the court has authorised the issuing of such order after satisfying itself that it is just and equitable to do so and that the amount is appropriate. It has a far-reaching effect on society, especially in the lives of the indigent community who are often the most exploited due to financial illiteracy. The significance of this case is that it sets a precedent for others in the same desperate situation to find relief from the crippling financial situation in which they find themselves.
The Legal Aid Clinic also worked on the 2012 Constitutional Court case of M Hattingh v L E Juta (CC50/2012), which related the protection of the family rights of adult children of farm occupiers. Instead of narrowing the definitions of concepts such as 'family' or 'culture' in order to determine the right to family life, the Constitutional Court placed emphasis on the balancing of interests of the parties, and upholding constitutional values. This case brought legal certainty by interpreting the difficult concept of 'family life' of farm occupiers in accordance with Section 6(2)(d) of ESTA, allowing adult children of farmworker parents to reside with them on farmland.
Does the Legal Aid Clinic have a women's day message?
To all the women in South Africa: you are strong, let your voice be heard. If you see a woman in need, reach out to her, and help her get back up.
- Individuals living in the Boland, Ceres, and Worcester areas, who are in need of legal assistance, can contact the Legal Aid Clinic on 021 808 3600. The Clinic is located at 44 Banhoek Road, Stellenbosch. To qualify for legal representation, clients must earn below a set threshold.
Caption: In front from left to right is Lisa Swanepoel, Nikita Roode, Magda Esau and Erika Wright. Back row from left is Monja Posthumus-Meyjes, Priscilla Khoaeane and Danielle Louw.