The University of Pretoria Law Clinic
There aren’t many advantages that go with being indigent, except for all the free legal services. Law clinics available at most universities around the country do just that; they offer legal services for free to poor South African citizens. In 1980 the Law Clinic at the University of Pretoria was founded by student volunteers to assist those who could not afford legal services. It has since grown into an established organisation at the Faculty of Law, providing hands-on practice for final-year law students.
Students there are able to practice law under the mentorship of experienced legal practitioners. Such legal assistance deals with matters of civil litigation, debt counseling, and criminal law. The law clinics at universities around the country function as part of legal aid.
How Legal Aid Works in Pretoria
As with Legal Aid, those looking to use the services of the law clinic available at the University of Pretoria must complete a means test. Given that the services are only available to indigent citizens, they must qualify. The means test will determine how much the insured and his or her spouse earn together and how much property they own to determine if they are in fact indigent.
As a general rule, indigent citizens are those who do not (and have not) owned property and earn less than R3000 per month. Other citizens, although unable to afford the legal assistance of an attorney, can afford legal insurance at under R100 per month which qualifies them for legal advice.
Once an individual qualifies for legal aid, he or she will be assisted by qualified attorneys and law students in their final year.
Where Legal Aid in Pretoria Operates
The law clinics operate from Hammanskraal and Mamelodi. The Hammanskraal branch opened in 1994 as an advice office by the Centre of Human Rights. It now renders full legal services including advice and representation in civil and criminal matters. The Mamelodi branch was opened in 2008 when the Department of Justice launched the Candidate Attorney Programme to provide indigent citizens with legal assistance and law students experience to qualify as attorneys.
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