Who qualifies for legal aid in South Africa?

Who qualifies for legal aid

Legal Aid South Africa (“LASA“) has a mandate from the South African Constitution to help the poor get tax-funded legal assistance. It is important that we make sure the people we help need our assistance the most.

If you ask LASA for legal assistance they will ask you to complete a form so they can understand how much money you get each month and what things you own, like a car or house. This is called the Means Test. A Legal Aid South Africa official is always available to help you fill this form in.

The Means Test – look at what you earn

Legal aid for individuals:- If you are employed, you must earn less than R5,500.00 per month after tax has been taken off.

Legal aid for households:- If you live with other people for more than 4 nights per week, and these other people share in the cost of food and other costs, then we will look at your total household income. We will only give legal aid to households that earn less than R6,000.00 per month. Again, we will only look at the amount that the household receives after tax has been taken off.

They also take into account what you own.

If you or your household:

  • own a house, then the total value of the house and all your belongings must not be worth more than R500,000. You must also only have the one house and you must live in it.
  • do not own a house, then the total value of all your belongings (for example, your car, furniture, clothes and other personal things) must not be worth more than R100,000.

Some people automatically qualify for legal aid

People on state grants and the elderly:- If you receive any state grant or old age pension, you automatically qualify for legal aid. You do not have to take the Means Test. You will need to show us official documents that prove you receive a state grant or pension.

Children:- In criminal cases, children automatically qualify for legal aid and do not have to take the Means Test. If it is a civil case, the family of the child will need to take and pass the Means Test.

Worth knowing …

Aid for non-citizens

Legal aid is available to anyone who lives in South Africa (not only South African citizens) if the case:

  • Is criminal
  • Involves children
  • Asylum seekers – Legal aid is available to Asylum seekers applying or intending to apply for Asylum under Chapters 3 and 4 of the Refugees Act 130 of 1998.

In civil cases legal aid is not available to non-citizens.

You don’t pay for legal aid
If you qualify for legal aid, and LASA has agreed to represent you, you will not have to pay for anything. In fact, Legal Aid South Africa lawyers may not ask or be paid any money when they assist you with your case.

We also consider special legal cases

Legal Aid South Africa tries to help as many people who can’t afford help as possible. From time to time, opportunities arise for us to take on legal work that has the potential to positively change the lives of a far larger number of people than just the person that we provide legal assistance to.

If you would like some legal advice prior to you contacting LASA, then please post your legal question here and one of our attorneys will assist you.

The Children’s Act 38 of 2005

The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 has influenced not only the rights of children and parents, but also the way in which any disputes in this area are dealt with in practice. Our courts have also had to move away from certain traditional prejudices, and embrace the new approach to these legal proceedings set out by the Act.

The main purposes of the Act are detailed in the preamble as:

– To give effect to certain rights of children as contained in the Constitution;
– To set out principles relating to the care and protection of children;
– To define parental responsibilities and rights
– To make further provision regarding children’s courts
– To provide for the issuing of contribution orders;
– To make new provisions for the adoption of children;
– To provide for inter-country adoption;
– To Prohibit child abduction and to give effect to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction;
– To provide for surrogate mothergood;
– To create certain new offences relating to children

There are accordingly many questions that lawyers deal with on a daily basis, most of which have their answers rooted in the Children’s Act …

[Source] South African Legal Advice

Fixed term Consumer Agreement?

In terms of the new Consumer Protection 68 of 2008 (the Act), an agreement that is stipulated to endure for a particular amount of time is called a ‘fixed term agreement’, and the agreement therefore is regulated by the provisions of the Act.

Are there examples of a fixed term agreement?

The easiest example of a fixed term agreement is a cellphone contract. Most cellphone contracts are taken out for a period of 2 years (24 months), and as such they are fixed term agreements.

What does this mean for a consumer?

The Act accordingly provides consumers with the right to choose, which right includes (where the consumer is an individual as opposed to a company), the choice to terminate a fixed term agreement.

[Source] South African Legal Advice

Divorce 101: What is a divorce?

Marriage is a legal bond between two people, and provides those people with certain rights and obligations against each other. The only way to terminate these rights and obligations (as much as possible), is for the parties to obtain a divorce from each other. A divorce therefore legally terminates a marriage. Once a divorce is granted, each partner may then legally marry someone else. 

There are only two grounds for divorce:

– the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage;
– the mental illness or continuous unconsciousness of one partner

[Source] South African Legal Advice

Drunk Driving: Court Procedure

What must the State prove?

In a case of driving under the influence of liquor, the state must prove that the accused drove a vehicle on a public road while under the influence, or while the alcohol content of the accused’s blood exceeded 0,05g per 100ml. When these elements have been established, a court will consider the following factors in imposing sentence:

– the degree to which a motorist was under the influence of liquor;
– the extent to which his or her ability to drive was affected;
– traffic conditions at the relevant time;
– the type of vehicle being driven;
– the actual harm or danger caused by his or her driving;
– the time and place of the offence;
– whether the accused is a first offender.

Evidence against the accused may be given by the police, the examining doctor or any person who, at the time of the alleged offence, thought the accused was under the influence. The opinions expressed in court must be qualified by reasons. For instance, the statement ‘I believe he was under the influence’ is not acceptable evidence, unless it is followed by an observation such as ‘because he smelt strongly of liquor and his speech was slurred’.

[Source] South African Legal Advice

Consumer’s rights to safe, good quality goods

The Consumer Protection Act No. 68 of 2008 (‘the CPA’) has been hailed as the end of the voetstoots clause in sale agreements as we know it. While the provisions giving rise to the consumer protection bodies and those authorising the creation of regulations came into effect on the 24th April 2010, the remaining provisions, which apply to most businesses only came into effect on the 1st April 2011, this date being called the ‘effective date’ of the CPA. As such, the CPA is now the cornerstone of consumer rights in South Africa. 

Section 55 of the Act sets out the Consumer’s rights to safe, good quality goods and states as follows:
Except to the extent contemplated in subsection (6), every consumer has a right to receive goods that-
(a) are reasonably suitable for the purposes for which they are generally intended;
(b) are of good quality, in good working order and free of any defects; 
(c) will be useable and durable for a reasonable period of time, having regard to the use to which they would normally be put and all the surrounding circumstances of their supply; and
(d) comply with any applicable standards set under the Standards Act, 1993 (Act No. 29 of 1993), or any other public regulation.

[Source] South African Legal Advice