Community legal centre opens its doors

Zeenat Dawood, the manager of the Peoples Law Centre.

The Manenberg Advice Centre has branched out to open a new office in Surrey Estate, called the People’s Law Centre, in order to expand this service to many more people who need free legal advice.

Founder of the law centre, Wilfred Bruintjies said he had noticed the need for this service while working as a lawyer, and started the Manenberg Advice Centre, a non-profit organisation, from his home in 2014.

Said Mr Bruintjies: “Many people cannot deal with the enormous difficulties they face without access to the legal justice system. Even in our second decade of democracy, access to justice remains something that the majority of South Africans cannot afford.

“The People’s Law Centre is not a new organisation. It is a branch out of the Manenberg Advice Centre. We were forced to branch out in order to help a bigger section of the community. At the Manenberg Advice office, we assisted people from Hanover Park and Ottery, among other areas, and because of the gang violence, many people could not, or were scared to come to the advice centre. The name People’s Law Centre, now means that this service is open to all from all areas, who cannot afford legal costs.”

The law centre is situated on the corner of Comet Road and Klipfontein Road, Surrey Estate, and assists people with the administration of deceased estates, road accident fund claims, executing of wills, divorces, labour disputes, pension and insurance enquiries, consumer protection, handling disputes between a tenant and backyard dweller, or the municipality.

Both Mr Bruintjies and the office manager, Zeenat Dawood, volunteer at the law centre. Ms Dawood said they are trying to source sponsorship for the centre.

Mr Bruintjies said he is hoping to secure the services of law students, as the drafting of documents can be complicated at times.

“Sometimes people come here and think they are coming to an attorney’s firm. We would like to eventually employ an attorney, especially when it comes to evictions and gross human rights violations,” Mr Bruintjies said.

Ms Dawood said they would also like to implement a charitable arm to the law centre.

“I would like us to refer to it as a care centre, because at times, people come here, not for legal advice, but for some form of sustenance. For this reason, we are appealing to people to donate blankets, food and clothing, or in any way they can help,” Ms Dawood said.

Mr Bruintjies is a strong believer that one can only gain wisdom about a place, such as Manenberg, if you experience it for yourself.

“If you want knowledge about Manenberg, you can google it, or use any other social media platform. However, if you want wisdom about Manenberg and its people, you must come find it yourself. That is our slogan. The theory in a law degree is not enough. We understand the community we work with, and no amount of theory can replace that,” he said.

Contact the People’s Law Centre by email at peopleslawcentre@gmail.com or 021 690 8136 or Ms Dawood at 078 827 0516.