Legal Aid South Africa
Legal Aid South Africa’s role is to provide legal aid to those who cannot afford their own legal representation. This includes poor people and vulnerable groups such as women, children and the rural poor.
It does this in an independent and unbiased manner with the intention of enhancing justice and public confidence in the law and administration of justice.
- Justice Centres
- Cooperation agreements
- Special litigation
- Other cost effective and efficient ways of accessing justice.
Access to justice is provided through Justice Centres. A Justice Centre works like a law firm, where legal aid applicants can go for legal assistance. Each Justice Centre has a principal attorney, who is the head of the Justice Centre, professional assistants, candidate attorneys, and paralegals. A Justice Centre offers legal assistance for defined criminal and civil matters. Services offered by Justice Centres include advice, referrals and litigation.
Legal Aid South Africa has cooperation agreements with various universities that have law clinics. Through the law clinics, the universities, in conjunction with Legal Aid South Africa, provide legal assistance to their communities. Legal Aid South Africa currently has cooperation agreements with Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Venda, Stellenbosch University and University of Port Elizabeth.
There are some special cases that, if taken to court and won, would have a major impact on the South African law. These types of cases often involve groups of people taking legal action together and therefore require special teams of legal representatives to assist them. The legal representatives may be from the Justice Centres or they may be private attorneys.
Legal Aid South Africa considers such cases strictly on a case-by-case basis and once certain criteria are met, then Legal Aid South Africa makes funding available from a special fund. The fund, which creates the capacity for the bringing of impact litigation, is particularly important against the backdrop of the Constitution, which, for the first time, introduced class actions in to the South African with respect to constitutional violations of the bill of rights.
Other cost effective and efficient ways of accessing justice
Over and above the other three methods, Legal Aid South Africa continues to explore other effective and efficient access to justice models. This is necessary as service delivery models of legal aid must be adapted and replaced over time in order to reflect changing contexts.
In 1997, Legal Aid South Africa decided to move towards a system of salaried legal practitioners as the primary means by which legal aid would in future be provided. In the last few years, Legal Aid South Africa has established at least 32 Justice Centres, which provide legal aid throughout the country.
The Justice Centres are usually near courts and each centre serves between 10 and 20 courts. Through its Justice Centres, Legal Aid South Africa provides legal aid to about 250 000 people throughout the country each year.