Areas of Law

PAHRO works primarily in the following areas of law:

  • Family Law
  • Property Law
  • Labour Law
  • Debt Collection
  • Immigration Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Other
  • Legal Clinics
  • Lavender Hill
  • Pollsmoor Prison
  • Bonnytoun

The staff at PAHRO cannot predict the nature of complaint that will be brought to us. For this reason, volunteers and interns should be prepared to attend to any area of legal work that arises, and should therefore not expect to specialise in one specific area. We have a large client base comprised of individuals who are unable to afford legal assistance, and yet who really need it. It would be considered as unfair to help some clients over others because of personal preference.

Family Law

PAHRO deals with a lot of cases relating to Family Law, primarily concerning issues including divorce, domestic violence, child custody and maintenance. In such instances, we help them fill out the necessary paperwork, and guide them through the court processes, assisting them in obtaining a pro-bono attorney where necessary. Domestic violence is particularly rife in townships, and we frequently assist our clients in obtaining and enforcing protection orders (restraining orders).

Property Law

In Property Law, we deal with cases including, but not restricted to, evictions, rental housing disputes, assistance with applications for low-cost housing and inadequate housing issues. South Africa suffers from an insurmountable housing crisis, and thousands of people in the Western Cape alone continue to wait to be sufficiently homed. The majority of such cases stem from our Legal Clinic, which is held in a township and wherein structural and sanitation concerns are rife. Some households qualify for the Indigent Grant, wherein we can assist them with their application, with the end result being that their arrears are scrapped in their entirety.

Labour Law

There are numerous pieces of legislation governing Labour Law in South Africa. As a result, we are expected to deal with these matters as comprehensively as possible. A large percentage of the cases dealt with by our office involve occupational injury and unfair dismissal from employment. Volunteers and interns assist in carrying out thorough research relating to the specific category of unfair dismissal and the necessary steps which much then be followed. There are two important regulatory bodies that deal with this issue; the bargaining council and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA); many of our clients are unaware that they may approach the CCMA for assistance with particular labour related issues. PAHRO assists clients in these instances by helping to draft a proportion of the required documentation for lodging of their complaint, as well as the procedure to be followed. We also assist our clients in compiling evidence which would assist them in the abovementioned application.

Debt Collection

We receive many cases in relation to matters concerning over-indebtedness. Often our clients are simply unable to make the necessary payments for their rent or relevant services provided by the municipality. Other times, our clients sign contracts for items for which they must make regular payments, and are unable to continue as agreed due to low incomes; such contracts are often not in their first language, thus creating difficulties with understanding the terms and conditions, and are not adequately explained. Loan sharks also result in over-indebtedness, as the interest rates are not proportionate to the norm. Problems such as these contributed to the establishment of the Consumer Protection Act of 2008. We act on our clients’ behalf to assist in negotiating affordable payment plan, to pend any interest which may otherwise be accrued, or to eradicate the debt entirely. We also assist some clients by referring them to debt counsellors, as per the National Credit Act of 2005, or with drafting an Acknowledgement of Debt.

Immigration Law

PAHRO’s main focus with respect to immigration is Refugee Law. Here interns and volunteers work with qualified staff members to assist clients with lodging appeals, where an application for refugee status was denied; drafting heads of argument for appeal hearings as well as drafting declarations for certification applications for permanent residence. The nature of this work requires that we keep abreast of latest developments in the political climate of the countries not only bordering South Africa but, also in Africa as a whole. It is important that we are well informed on these facts for effective representation of our clients. Interns/volunteers are therefore expected to conduct this research to establish argument that is useful in the objective assessment of each case. Other casework related to refugee rights includes, but is not limited to: assisting with applications for school fees exemptions, SASSA grants, extension of permits where the clients have difficulty doing so at the Refugee Reception Office as well as referring them to organisations that provide services such as trauma counselling , free English classes and free shelters. The casework is sensitive and volunteers/interns must conduct themselves with sensitivity to the clients.

Criminal Law

Criminal Law in South Africa is governed mainly by the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977. This Act details which procedure is to be followed in respect of legal representations in court, conduct of State officials and judiciary, as well as other aspects relevant to ensure that the rights of any accused person are upheld, specifically in a State with constitutional supremacy. At PAHRO, we deal with all criminal matters to ensure that our clients’ rights in terms of the constitution of South Africa are not infringed upon. Our criminal cases include, inter alia, rape, murder, house breaking, robbery, common assault and grievous bodily harm. Upon receiving criminal cases, staff at PAHRO represent accused persons in court, ensuring their right to a fair and speedy trial. Criminal matters require intense research and dissection of various pieces of South African legislation which criminalises certain conduct. Volunteers/interns will be expected to delve into research and the drafting of legal opinions and documents in order to assist our South African qualified attorneys at court, as well as prepare defences for both the State and defence attorney. Upon completion of this task, volunteers/interns are expected to participate in moot court hearings held at our office as a further measure to prepare our attorneys for court.

Other

Not all of our cases will fit into the above categories and thus will fall under ‘Other’. These cases vary and include, but are not exclusive to, complaints relating to police brutality, unlawful arrest and detention, reporting of commercial crimes, wills and succession, assisting with claims made to the Road Accident Fund, and medical negligence.

Volunteers and interns will be expected to carry out accurate and thorough research on a broad spectrum of legal issues, often within a given time limit when the matter is of urgency.

Legal Clinics

We run a legal clinic in Lavender Hill, which is an area in the Cape Flats. Townships suffer from social ills including lack of education opportunities, high levels of unemployment, gang violence and substance abuse. In such areas, there is little access to legal assistance, and the majority of the people residing there do not have the financial means necessary to travel in order to receive help. Thus, once a fortnight, volunteers/interns attend the clinic to meet with clients. The research is conducted at the office, and any relevant information is relayed to the clients at the clinic.

Lavender Hill

Lavender Hill, which is an area in the Cape Flats. Townships suffer from social ills including lack of education opportunities, high levels of unemployment, gang violence and substance abuse. In such areas, there is little access to legal assistance, and the majority of the people residing there do not have the financial means necessary to travel in order to receive help. Thus, once a fortnight, volunteers/interns attend the clinic to meet with clients. The research is conducted at the office, and any relevant information is relayed to the clients at the clinic.

Pollsmoor Prison

Every Thursday, volunteers/interns may attend the Pollsmoor legal clinic which is one of the most notorious prisons in South Africa.

Volunteers/interns will get the opportunity to assist the Legal Services Coordinator in consultations with new and existing clients at Pollsmoor prison, all of whom are awaiting trial. Thereafter, upon the Legal Services Coordinator’s discretion, such volunteer /intern may attend the court house/ appearance of such client.

Please note that Criminal Law cases are of an extremely serious nature, as the consequences of lasing a case impact on one of the most fundamental rights in South Africa, being freedom. Preference will therefore be given to Pre-volunteers.

Bonnytoun

Volunteers/interns may be called upon to attend Bonnytoun Legal Clinic with the Legal Services Coordinator.

Attendance at this clinic is strictly reserved for pro-volunteers and will be chose by the Legal Services Coordinator.