Legal Aid for People Who Can’t Afford to Pay for an Attorney

Navigating the law in South Africa requires expertise. With any luck, you will never be in a situation where you need a lawyer, but you must be ready if it happens. The problem is that lawyer’s fees can run into thousands of Rand, even for relatively simple cases. That’s where legal aid comes in.

The more complex the case, the more the expenses will mount up. What if you need help and cannot afford to pay an attorney, though?

Depending on your financial circumstances, Legal Aid might be able to assist you.

Who Qualifies for Legal Aid

The means test is for those who wish to make use of the Legal Aid services. The services are available free to those earning a net salary of R5 500 monthly after tax deductions.

The means test will also take the household income into account. If you stay with someone for over four nights a week, you will also need to prove that the household income is under R6 000 per month after tax deductions.

In addition, the value of your personal property will also be taken into consideration. If you own your Legal Aidown home, you only qualify for Legal Aid when it and your other belongings are valued at no more than R500 000.

If you are not living in that house, or you own a second house, you will not qualify.

Should you not own a property, you will only qualify if your possessions in total equal R100 000 or less.

People who are currently receiving a SASSA grant do not need to factor the grant money into their calculations but will have to prove that they get a grant and pass the Means Test.

What If Someone Is Dishonest About Their Income/ Property Values?

You will then be liable for the full costs of any work done on your behalf.

What Will Legal Aid Help You With?

  • Family Matters: Like if you need a divorce, need to get your ex to pay maintenance, etc.
  • Evictions: If your landlord is threatening to evict you.
  • Labour Matters: Like unfair dismissal, etc.
  • Breach of Contract: Like when someone had not held up their end of the bargain when you bought something from them.
  • Impact Litigation: These are cases where the matter could affect a number of people. Like, for example, the Marikana Massacre.
  • Criminal Cases: If you need a defence against criminal charges.


What Legal Aid Will Not Help You With

  • Frivolous Law Suits: Like where you want to sue someone for defamation of character.
  • Certain Civil Suits: Like when someone is suing you for defamation of character.
  • Debt Collection: This will not be handled by Legal Aid.


What to Expect

You can expect fair and good legal representation. It should be noted, however, that Legal Aid has a significant caseload and so your matter might take longer than it would if you hired an independent attorney. You might also have to wait a while for an appointment.

With Legal Aid, even the poorest of South Africans have access to quality legal representation.

Or you can get Legalwise legal cover 🙂