On 3 December 2019, SERI researcher Kelebogile Khunou attended a strategic workshop entitled, “Challenging unjust Regulation of the Practice of Law that Restrict Access to Justice” hosted by the Open Society Justice Initiative in Bandung Indonesia. The workshop was focused on advancing new strategies to empower and protect community-based paralegals and frontline justice advocates. In attendance were civil society actors, legal practitioners and academics from Indonesia, Moldova, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa and the United States of America. The workshop was also attended by community-based paralegals from Bandung and Jakarta.
Colleagues from SERI, Black Sash, Casual Workers Advice Office (CWAO) and Hlanganisa Institute for Development in Southern Africa represented South Africa. The workshop was held alongside the 10th Worldwide Conference of the Global Alliance for Justice Education.
The workshop began with a panel discussion on the current landscape of laws and policies impacting community-based paralegals and frontline justice advocates, with panelists sharing the experiences from Indonesia, Nepal, Moldova, Pakistan, and South Africa.
Komnas Poriazis of CWAO provided an overview of the regulatory restrictions impacting community advice offices and paralegals in South Africa, highlighting CWAO’s 2016 court challenge against rule 25 of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA), which restricted the right to represent employees to lawyers and trade union officials or members. CWAO argued that since according to StatsSA 70% of workers do not belong to a trade union, the rule prejudiced non-trade union employees and denied precarious workers their rights.
Although the rule was updated in 2019 granting discretion to Commissioners on who is allowed to represent workers beyond those specified, Komnas stated that the rule is applied arbitrarily and often paralegals and organisers are excluded by Commissioners who are either unaware of the update to rule 25 or choose not to recognise them stating that paralegals and organisers are not accredited.
* * *
SERI works closely with community-based paralegals, advice offices and associations to advance community-based justice. SERI has developed a range of legal guides (and accompanying training) to assist CAOs to provide accurate legal advice. Each guide is freely accessible online.
Download SERI’s resource guides:
The guide is also accompanied by six information sheets on leave (also available in isiZulu), wages (also available in isiZulu), the UIF (also available in isiZulu), the CCMA (also available in isiZulu), employment contracts (also available in isiZulu) and the end of the employment relationship (also available in isiZulu)
The guide is also accompanied by five information sheets available in English and Afrikaans: