If you’ve been the victim of any kind of crime, there’s provision in South Africa to offer you free legal help. It’s called Legal Aid. It’s offered to anyone in South Africa who cannot afford to pay legal fees themselves.
This means that if you’ve suffered at the hands of abuse, you can seek legal help to bring you justice. That can mean securing a restraining order, granting maintenance payments or putting your attacker behind bars. Here’s what you need to know about Legal Aid, and how to access it.
What is Legal Aid and how can it help me?
‘Legal Aid is available, and advice and legal representation is offered,’ explains Thandiswa Maholwana of Legal Aid Advice Line. ‘If you qualify for it, the assistance provided by Legal Aid SA is free of charge to you.’
So, if you can’t afford a lawyer to prosecute your abuser in court, or can’t afford the consultation fees lawyers charge in order to give you legal advice and let you know how you can pursue justice, legal aid is for you. In fact, if you’re unsure about your rights and how to bring an abuser to justice, enquiring with Legal Aid is a great place to start.
Who can access Legal Aid?
‘Anyone can call our toll-free Legal Aid Advice Line, send a Please Call Me, log a website enquiry or walk into one of our 128 offices for legal advice,’ advises Lizelle Erasmus, also of Legal Aid Advice Line. ‘We have a policy in place that prioritises matters in which women and children are particularly vulnerable.’
Legal Aid does have a way of assessing if you qualify for free help. Not everyone can access legal services for free if they could afford these services themselves.
‘We have a means test that helps us assess if you cannot afford legal advice or representation privately,’ explains Erasmus. If you could afford private legal services, you won’t be able to access free Legal Aid.
But, even if you earn enough not to qualify for free Legal Aid, you may still be able to receive financial help for some of your legal costs. ‘We do have policies where we can provide assistance by arranging you pay a contribution towards legal costs monthly with us,’ says Maholwana. ‘This assists you if you do earn, but not enough to cover the full cost or sustain the legal costs for the period the matter is pending.’
How do I access Legal Aid?
- Walk in at any of their offices across all nine provinces, which you can locate using this map.
- Call the toll-free number: 0800 110 110
- Use their Please Call Me service: 079 835 7179
- Log a query via their website: Legal-aid.co.za
I’m not happy with the Legal Aid help I received – what can I do?
‘Each of our offices has a head of office – you can lodge a service complaint directly with them,’ says Maholwana. ‘Alternatively, if you are not comfortable doing this, you can use the advice line (0800 110 110) to lodge a complaint.’
Legal Aid Advice Line (free)
- Call 0800 110 110 (toll-free) or the Please Call Me service through 079 835 7179
- They will also be able to tell you which Legal Aid office is closest to your location
- Call their HQ: 011 642 4335
- Download the free POWA GBV app for Android or iOS to report abuse and find help centres near to you
- Call 0861 322 322
- Dial *134*7355#
- Call 10111
- Visit their FCS Unit
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