Law journal for non-lawyers published

March 1st, 2014

By Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele

The People’s Law Journal, a law journal written in plain language that covers issues on social justice and human rights has been launched. Jacques van Heerden, the editor of the journal, told De Rebus that the aim of the journal is to educate non-lawyers, especially from poor or working-class communities about the law. He said that it will inform readers on where the law comes from, how it works and how it affects them. ‘We believe that people should know how to use the law in their struggle for equality, social justice and human rights,’ he said.

He added: ‘Law is not just about precedent and legal argument; it is also created and shaped by individuals and communities living under specific conditions. So although we will focus on current and historical case law, articles will also take a look at specific people who were affected in each case and how their legal struggles helped them to change or improve their lives. It focuses on the way that law and politics intersect and how this affects people’s lives. It aims to demystify the law and how it operates, and to make it more transparent and accessible.’

Mr Van Heerden said that all people are affected by the law, but few understand it since lawyers and judges often speak and write using complicated language.

At the moment the journal is published twice a year by Ndifuna Ukwazi, an organisation that promotes understanding, engagement and collaboration on social justice issues. The editorial committee accepts submissions from lawyers, young law students and human rights activists whose work has contributed to legal campaigns. It also particularly welcomes submissions from anyone with the ability to write clearly and simply about legal issues, as the journal is aimed at non-specialists. ‘Every article should be accessible to people with limited formal education. Additionally, some articles will be written by young researchers who may have had formal or informal legal training,’ said Mr Van Heerden.

Mr Van Heerden said that the first edition of the journal was dedicated to former Chief Justices Arthur Chaskalson and Pius Langa since both their legal careers illustrated the kind of concern for and dedication to human rights that the editorial committee would hope for from all members of the judiciary.

Hard copies of the journal can be obtained from the Ndifuna Ukwazi office in Cape Town. The journal is free, although donations are welcome, and electronic copies can be accessed through a link on the Ndifuna Ukwazi website (

Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele,

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2014 (March) DR 14.