Wits Justice Project discusses access to justice in Orange Farm

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Speakers introduce themselves to the community of Orange Farm. From left: Jacob Sebedi, Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi, Palesa ‘Deejay’ Manaleng, Bricks Mokolo, Osmond Mngomezulu, Lehlohonolo Mashifane, Thandi Maduna and Lilian Njoko-Moreki ( Photo by: Mfuneleo Toyana)

PALESA ‘DEEJAY’ MANALENG

Wits Justice Project (WJP) hosted an event to discuss access to justice with the community of Orange Farm.  The event was held at St. Charles Lwanga Catholic Church (Extension 7A) and was opened with a few spiritual songs and a moment of silence.

The whole point of the event was to listen to the issues facing the community and try to help them find solutions and a way forward. The WJP has been hosting a radio show (http://witsjusticeproject.com/2013/04/18/wjp-partners-with-thetha-fm-a-small-station-making-a-big-impact/) on Thetha FM-  Orange Farm’ s community radio station- every Tuesday at 13h30, that helps people to deal with justice issues ranging from “ What if you can’t afford your bail” to “ Has the case you opened with the cops gone nowhere”. The WJP team decided it was time the community knows who we are, what we represent and we got to know the community of Orange Farm better.

We invited speakers from different organisations to help community members with their issues on accessing justice. The meeting was chaired by Jacob Sebedi from the Justice and Peace arch diocese of Johannesburg, who would summarise what the speakers had said and translated it into SeSotho.

Opening the session was Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi, WJP  Project Co-ordinator.  She explained to the community that the WJP is not a legal firm, but a group of journalists and researchers, who have access to lawyers, legal experts and who focus on human rights.  She said that what we learn from Orange Farm will be shared with others through the media, using newspapers, radio, television and social networks. Speaking at the same time, Palesa ‘Deejay’ Manaleng – an intern at WJP -, explained in Sepedi that the Justice team is made up of ordinary people, who at one point did not understand and know much about the Justice system. After a lot of research and through asking the correct questions to the right people, we have been able to gather enough information to enable us to come to Orange Farm and share our knowledge with the community.

Bricks Mokolo, a community paralegal, let the community know that this is not about just access to justice for Orange Farm but for other communities. He said: “we have a police station but we feel we have no access to justice”. And to thunderous applause, he continued:  “we want a court, we ask, demand, that they build a court here”.

Speaking after Bricks, Osmond Mngomezulu, an attorney for Pro-Bono, discussed access to lawyers and courts. He began by explaining that in South Africa we have a Constitutional rights. But, he said, even though we had rights, the biggest challenge was accessing those rights. He explained that every lawyer is obliged to provide 24 hours of free legal service a year.

Lehlohonolo Mashifane, from the Vereeniging Justice Centre of Legal Aid SA, explained the work of Legal Aid.  Afterwards, he and his colleagues said they would try to visit Orange Farm once a month, to listen to the community and give them legal advice.

Thandi Maduna, a producer at Thetha Fm passionately spoke about different issues she witness on a daily basis. “We are focusing on Nyaope (heroin mixed at times with rat poison), but some cops take bribes from drug dealers. She continued by encouraging the community to come to the radio station to give voice problems they are facing.

The final speaker, the dynamic Lilian Njoko-Moreki, from the NPA in Vereeniging discussed access to courts and how courts interact with police. “We can see Orange Farm is growing and needs a court , the issue of no courts in Orange Farm affects us as prosecutors as well”. She asked the community to “work hand-in-hand with the police and the NPA and the Legal Aid, to help see that justice is served in this community”.

 

 

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About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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