The CJN visits their paralegal partner in Kwaggafontein, Mpumalanga and finds a slick, healthy, justice-serving operation.
I drive into Kwaggafontein, Mpumalanga – down the main stretch of road – and the potpourri of small businesses is exciting and overwhelming. They lurch out into the road selling crisps, car tyres and beer. I ask for directions to the court and I’m told it is in the road that’s parallel which contains a similar mini-city, this time of justice-based services. The police station, court and advice office are built into a type of one-stop compound.
Head paralegal Nthofela Makhele greets me in the court parking lot. I am here to discuss how her advice office, Ukuthula, can come on board as a partner with the Citizen Justice Network. We will train her paralegals to be journalists so they can broadcast justice based stories on their local community radio station. She asks immediately if I have a microphone for her.
“Are they in the car, Paul? Are the microphones in the car?” she says and then laughs. I tell her that I am not here to give her a microphone.
“All in good time,” I say. She shakes my hand and says she wants to be a journalist right away.
Nthofela describes herself as an activist. She shows me the office she has in the court building and tells me that she has been running an office here since 1986. She reminds me several times during the day that I was four years old when her office started.
I am told that the majority of cases here are around domestic violence and we chat about how the office could address this in terms of radio stories. We touch on the sensitivity of interviewing victims and how to display them in the media.
In terms of other issues plaguing the area we talk transport and the difficulty for people to reach her and then (if necessary) go to the nearest hospital to record the results of their abuse and file a J88 (which is several taxi rides away).
Nthofela and I develop a plan for the stakeholders in the area. This includes the local radio station, the police, the chiefs, the community policing forum and the ward councilors. It is necessary to bring them together in one room, introduce the Citizen Justice Network to them and help develop relationships that will facilitate access to justice. As an example, the chiefs in the area get plenty of domestic violence cases brought to them and we want them to refer these cases to the advice office.
This is where the Citizen Justice Network isn’t just a media production and training programme, but also a mechanism to build a sustainable network of stakeholders around justice issues in communities.
Watch Nthofela talking about CJN on YouTube.
Area: Kwaggafontein (pop. 45,104)
Name of the office: Ukuthula Advice Office
Head paralegal: Nthofela Makhele
Notes: This advice office is built into the Magistrate’s Court and this drastically helps with referrals. Nthofela Makhele has run an office here since 1986.