23 December 2008
The Legal Aid Board of South Africa launched a new justice centre and nine additional satellite offices in 2008, improving access to free legal services in townships and rural areas across the country.
Satellite offices have been opened this year in Bulwer, Dundee and Escourt in KwaZulu-Natal province; Elliot and Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape; Ladybrand in the Free State, Wolmaranstad in North West; Musina in Limpopo; and Hartswater in the Northern Cape.
A new justice centre has also been opened in Bellville, north of Cape Town, in the Western Cape, bringing the board’s national footprint to 62 justice centres and 51 satellite offices.
The board focuses on remote communities and vulnerable groups, increasing access to independent legal services, both civil and criminal.
According to a statement by the board, it is critical that communities receive increased public education and awareness of their rights and responsibilities and how to access legal services.
“Our national footprint expansion ensures that communities have access to our lawyers, and that our lawyers are present in all criminal courts in this country,” Legal Aid Board chief operating officer Jerry Makokoane said in Pretoria earlier this month.
Justice for all
“We also provide legal assistance in the dedicated courts, such as the Children’s Courts, Commercial Crimes Courts, Sexual Offences Courts as well as the Labour Courts.”
Makokoane said that by spreading satellite offices and justice centres all over the country, the board was showing that it wanted all the people of South Africa, especially women and children, to have access to justice.
“They need not travel long distances to reach our offices,” said Makokoane, adding that people did not have to pay for the board’s services as they were tax-funded.