Legal Aid SA has produced some of the best criminal legal practitioners

August 16th, 2019
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By Kgomotso Ramotsho

In his quest to bring access to justice for all, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, provided legal advice to members of the public at Legal Aid South Africa’s (Legal Aid SA) Advice Line in Johannesburg on 31 July. Mr Lamola’s provision of legal advice and interactions at Legal Aid SA’s Advice Line forms part of Mandela Month commemorations and, most importantly, seeks to encourage members of the public to utilise Legal Aid SA’s legal services, which is available for free.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, visited the Legal Aid Advice South Africa Line in Johannesburg, to give legal advice to members of the public as part of his quest to increasing access to justice.

Mr Lamola interacted with the public on the telephone introducing himself as Ronald Lamola from Legal Aid SA. He asked the members of the public how he could assist them. He then took callers through a step-by-step process of how Legal Aid SA could assist them and how they could receive further assistance. Shortly after taking calls from the public, Mr Lamola addressed the media together with the Chief Executive Officer of Legal Aid SA, Vidhu Vedalankar and the Chairperson of Legal Aid SA, Judge Motsamai Makume.

Mr Lamola said Legal Aid SA is one of the best run entities of government in the country with a record of clean audits for the past 18 years. He added that legal practitioners who have passed through the doors of Legal Aid SA, while they were doing their articles, want to remain with Legal Aid SA and are proud to serve and work at the institution.

Mr Lamola said there is a wrong perception that the quality of services that Legal Aid SA provides is of a low standard. He pointed out that Legal Aid SA is one of the institutions where criminal legal practitioners are produced in South Africa (SA). He added that some of the best criminal judges and prosecutors in SA have worked at Legal Aid SA.

Mr Lamola noted that Legal Aid SA has also helped in some of the big public interest cases, such as in the Marikana Commission (Legal Aid South Africa v Magidiwana and Others 2015 (6) SA 494 (CC)), the Silicosis class action (Nkala and Others v Harmony Gold Mining Co Ltd and Others 2016 (5) SA 240 (GJ)), the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing and others. ‘It is an institution of best practice not only in SA, but the world in the standard of universal access to justice,’ Mr Lamola said.

Ms Vedalankar said Mr Lamola is committed to increasing access to justice and that is Legal Aid SA’s main aim. She pointed out that Legal Aid SA reaches South African’s across the country. ‘We have a footprint of offices over 128 sites, where clients can access us directly, in addition to the Legal Aid advice line,’ she said.

Ms Vedalankar pointed out that Legal Aid SA assists over 700 people each year in legal aid services and in legal advice, provided by legal practitioners that work there. ‘Our [legal practitioners] are very proud of the quality of their service, we have [legal practitioners] who have remained with us for a long time, which means they build up skills and provide quality service,’ she said. Ms Vedalankar noted that Legal Aid SA does quality assurances and follow-ups in terms of complaints from clients.

Ms Vedalankar added that Legal Aid SA is happy that government has stated its commitment in increasing access to justice, it makes it possible for Legal Aid SA to achieve their Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, of which the key development goal is point 16.3, which focuses on increasing access to justice.

In a press release, Legal Aid SA stated that they continue to ensure access to justice for all and one of the ways to do so is through the establishment of the toll-free Legal Aid SA Advice Line, which is accessible to members of the public via a number of channels. Members of the public can access Legal Aid SA’s services by –

  • calling the toll-free number at 0800 110 110;
  • sending a ‘please call me’ to 079 835 7179;
  • leaving a voice message; or
  • logging a request for legal advice on the organisation’s website at legal-aid.co.za.

There is no qualifying criteria used in providing advice, and the Legal Aid SA Advice Line will assist any person who seeks legal advice. The statement added that the Legal Aid SA Advice Line operates from Monday to Friday between 7am to 7pm and is accessible in all 11 official languages. All calls are recorded for quality monitoring purposes. The website request form also provides an opportunity for those with speech or hearing impairments to receive legal advice via e-mail, or other forms of digital communication.

Chief Executive Officer of Legal Aid South Africa (Legal Aid SA), Vidhu Vedalankar, with Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola and the Chairperson of Legal Aid SA, Judge Motsamai Makume, briefed media at the Legal Aid SA Advice Line in Johannesburg.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.