Women receive free legal advice

Women in law Melissa Angelbrecht, Siphesihle Mayedwa and Seehaam Samaai.

In celebration of Women’s Month, Bo-Kaap women were offered free legal advice at the Schotschekloof civic centre on Saturday August 24.

The initiative was run by the Bo-Kaap Collective, a group that consists of different professionals who were born and bred in the Bo-Kaap and are now giving back their wealth of knowledge to the community.

Human rights activist Seehaam Samaai said even though the state provides legal aid and that many organisations try to assist, legal support is still costly for many people.

“Sadly, people still don’t trust the law and what we have done is to bring the lawyers to the community. People can’t afford to take off a day in the week, that’s why we’re doing it on a Saturday because some might have their pay and the elderly can’t go to these offices, so we thought we should come to a community centre and provide basic legal advice and guide them,” she said.

Ms Samaai said a simple consultation would cost people between R500 and R700 and that doesn’t even mean that they could have a solution nor that the case would even be taken on, she said.

Touching on the legal challenges that residents are facing, Ms Samaai said the problems that they have seen are around housing, estates wills and relationship rights.

“For example, religious marriages, domestic partnerships, people living together are still not recognised in South Africa. When women want to break up, they are the ones that are disadvantaged. Many women want to know the set-ups in relationships and they don’t know what to do,” she said.

Touching on housing, she said elderly people need wills and need to know the process if they want their properties to be transferred to their children and grandchildren.

“People don’t understand that there are also costs involved. People don’t know that an executor can get up to 3% of an estate and that’s a lot and it’s important for people to know when they sign what that actually means.”

Ms Samaai said although they held the session in a hall, which did not offer much privacy, people were comfortable sharing the legal issues that they face.

“When it comes to abuse against women and children, I do a quick screening to see where a particular person can go because we have conveyancers, law students, candidate attorneys and legal NGOs such as ProBono.Org,” she said.

Ms Samaai and Shuaib Ramjam, who is a final year law student at UCT, plan to bring more of these free services to the community.

Mr Ramjam said this was a start and could be a vehicle to affording as many people access to knowledge on legal issues.

“Because of the structure of our society, access to legal services is not accessible to everyone and it’s important that as law students, we’re conscious of that throughout our studies and what we have, we plough it back to our communities.”

He said he’s learnt that despite where one is, they still have to give back to the community that raised and nurtured them.

The pair will give two hours of legal advice on the last Wednesday of every month and will bring more lawyers to the community.

Email seehaam.samaai@gmail.com for more information.