Last year Legal Aid South Africa supported nearly 800,000 people who would otherwise have had no recourse to justice because they could not afford legal fees.
Of those was a 16-year-old girl living on the streets and under arrest for possession of drugs. Another case involved a compensation settlement for families facing eviction from the land they had lived on for over a century.
“It’s simply not enough to have protective laws, functional institutions or progressive constitutions. Accessing justice is fundamental to enacting the rule of law and legal aid is a precondition for effecting it, by providing assistance to people otherwise unable to afford legal representation,” says Justice Mlambo, Chairperson of Legal Aid South Africa.
“Effectively, we operate the largest law firm in the country which helps make our constitution a living document that promotes, protects and defends peoples’ rights.”
Legal Aid South Africa provides an independent service dispensed through 64 Justice Centres across South Africa, usually located near a court and staffed by salaried legal practitioners. It is to these centres that many people go when they run into trouble and the case studies below are an illustration of some of the matters dealt with at the centres.
The father of a 5-year-old sought legal assistance from one of the Justice Centres when the Department of Health refused to provide medication to his daughter who suffers from a rare disease. Without this medication the prognosis was that his daughter would not survive. This op-ed was originally published in the Diplomatic Courier and the rest of the article can be read HERE.