How does Legal Aid South Africa work?
We all know lawyers are expensive, so what do you do if you need legal advice? If you are a pensioner or earn very little, you can apply to Legal Aid South Africa for help.
Who is Legal Aid South Africa and What they can Do for You –
- Legal Aid South Africa is a huge law firm staffed with legal experts
- They help millions of poor people to get legal help – in some cases at no cost
- Their staff handle criminal and civil cases
- You can find important legal advice on their website
- It is government-funded with 130 offices countrywide
- The call centres manage mainly civil matters
Get assistance From the Biggest law Firm in Africa – Legal Aid South Africa
Legal Aid South Africa has been offering their legal services for decades. They are the biggest law firm in Africa with skilled lawyers, finance and IT specialists. Over the last 40 years, they have helped millions with free legal assistance. These are people who could not afford a lawyer.
Family matters, employment issues, evictions, contracts, divorce, marital abuse– Legal Aid handles them all. Their website contains self-help pages which provide you with useful legal information on certain issues.
Reaching those in Rural areas
Statistics reveal that 52% of people living in rural areas are unemployed. These households also rely on government grants as their main source of income. Nearly everyone here has had some or other legal issue, but most find it difficult to access the legal justice system.
Even now, in a democratic South Africa, access to justice isn’t easy. The reason for this is the massive population and the resulting high levels of poverty and lack of infrastructure. There is also ignorance about the law and what people are actually entitled to.
The Aim of Legal Aid South Africa is, therefore, to increase access for these people to get legal aid and to also educate them about the law.
More about Legal Aid South Africa
Legal Aid South Africa is a government-funded project and gives legal assistance to thousands of clients. They were established in terms of the Legal Aid Act of 1969, and their focus is on ensuring that all South Africans have access to justice.
Their staff cover both criminal and civil cases. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in criminal cases. With civil cases, they place emphasis on providing legal advice and defending the rights of women, children, pensioners and the landless.
The Board is dedicated to –
- Protecting the rights of people through the provision of legal advice
- Taking cases to court to finalise the outcome
- Defending the rights of households through litigation
Since its formation, Legal Aid South Africa has grown and today they have over 128 offices countrywide. 64 are justice centres and the other 64 are satellite offices. They are also present in all the criminal courts in the country. In 2010 Legal Aid opened call centres for civil matters and handles thousands of calls per month. Provided you qualify for help, you will always have their support.
Legal issues such as contract law, debt, deceased estates, consumer complaints, criminal offences, labour issues, domestic violence, divorce and custodian issues with children are all dealt with by their lawyers.
How do You qualify for Legal Aid?
To qualify for legal aid, you must earn less than R5 500 a month. If you live with other people, this is classed as a household, and a household can’t earn more than R6 000 a month in order to apply.
In many cases, a “Means Test” is applied to determine if you qualify. You will need to disclose your monthly income as well as details about your household and personal assets. This is to ensure you fall within the required income bracket.
Legal Aid takes into account everything, even the property you may own. If you don’t own a house, then the total value of all your property, home, car etc. is calculated. People who receive a state grant or old age pension automatically qualify for legal aid. They won’t have to take the Means Test.
Legal Aid South Africa offers legal aid to –
- Children in civil matters
- Poor people accused of a crime
- Women who are divorced and involved in domestic violence cases
- Prisoners and detained people
- The landless
- Criminal cases such as arson, indecent assault, incest, rape, theft, abduction, murder and housebreaking among others
Legal Aid inquiries
All inquiries, as well as applications, must be made at your nearest magistrate’s court. If you satisfy the “Means Test”, and the matter falls within the scope of the guidelines, it is referred to an attorney. The attorney then takes up the matter with the applicant. Of course, anyone who is refused legal aid may appeal against the decision.
Every person who is accused of something, arrested or detained has a right to a fair trial. They also have the right to a legal expert who is assigned by the State at the States expense.
We all have to live together so society needs to impose rules – we can’t speed on the roads, we can’t steal, we can’t kill, and so on and the criminal law supports these rules by punishing offenders. Civil law also has a similar purpose. Applying the law enables people to get on with their life in peace, to marry, have children in a safe environment, make Wills, sign contracts or start a business etc.
The Ability to Enforce your Rights
Ignorance of the law is no excuse and it can deprive you of your legal rights. Knowledge of the law allows us to enforce our rights, and Legal Aid South Africa is mindful of the fact that there are South Africans who would never be able to do this if it weren’t for their assistance.