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Projects Abroad Human Rights Office - Cape town - Monthly reports - October 2011
This month has been busy for PAHO, especially with the arrival of our Global Gap Year volunteers. Our social justice projects are progressing well, with a new soccer project in the works. Our mock trial program is also making huge steps and having a profound impact on both the children we are working with and the volunteers. On the legal services side, we have had many interesting cases this month, including a Road Accident Fund case, a medical negligence case, and some very interesting asylum seeker cases. Here’s a summary of this month’s activities
Social Justice Monthly Update
Manenberg Soccer Project
The aim is simple. Through sport, we hope to provide a positive outlet for the young people of Manenberg, particularly those at risk of falling into the local gang and drug culture that is so prevalent in large parts of the community. We have been in partnership with Self-Help Manenberg for a number of years, setting up sustainable, community driven projects that seek to promote positive attributes such as discipline, team work and mutual respect. Most recently we have been assisting the people of Manenberg with setting up a weekly soccer league, catering for age groups ranging from 12 to 24 years. This has allowed us to develop a new partnership with the Silvertree Community Centre, based at the heart of the Manenberg community, away from the more recognised gang territories. This partnership has provided us with facilities in which to operate these leagues by utilising the large indoor space available.
Our project however remains at an early stage, as the possibilities for further expansion remain great. Through our partnership with Silvertree we are not only hoping to expand our soccer programme, but also the range of sports we offer to include, among others, Netball and Table Tennis. At present, the facilities we have available require a great deal of rejuvenation, particularly the playing fields immediately outside of the community centre. We are currently in contact with local businesses and both local city and provincial government authorities to help assist us with this rejuvenation, so that we are able develop purpose built sports pitches that are sustainable and will serve the community at large.
The mock trial group in Ruyterwacht has been progressing quickly. They are very bright and motivated. They have had lessons in public speaking, debate form and etiquette, analyzing arguments, and court room procedures. The group went to the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court and performed a dry run through of a case script given to them the week before from Advocate, Mr. Ruiters. Despite only having the material to look over for one week, the kids did a phenomenal job in their designated roles. Mr. Ruiters taped the whole case and will use it for educational purposes, teaching students and social workers about sexual violation. The group is going back for their final run-through of the case next Wednesday, November 9th. They have made their own additions to the script to make it their own and are excited to be prepared and perfect their roles next week. The group is also interested in doing another mock trial in which they will prepare their own opening and closing statements and questioning of the witnesses. This will happen at the end of November or early December.
For the past couple of weeks, some of our volunteers have been going to Manenberg to recruit and meet with girls about starting a new project in Manenberg. The girls are generally between 15-24 years and are school dropouts and young mothers, many of whom do not work. The girls brainstormed ideas about sports (e.g. netball and soccer), a swimming carnival, dance competition, etc. The volunteers are trying to find sustainable activities that the girls themselves can run and the volunteers can step in for support. The girls made it very clear that they do not just want to talk; they want to be active. The new program will kick off with a high tea function at the end of November; it is hoped that the activities will be up and running before the end of the year.
This month, volunteers focused on access to health care.
This month, volunteers focussed on gang culture around Cape Town. Volunteers took an article from the Cape Times website about violence in Lavender Hill which is a local township. The volunteers discussed how violence can tear a community apart from the inside out. The boys discussed how they feel about gangs and how they would like to get out of their gangs, but it’s difficult because they are surrounded by them. They brainstormed ways to fix gang violence and how to change the communities.
Recently, we have cases where clients have signed documents that have precluded them from further legal recourse. In one case, the client originally came to us concerned about his unfair dismissal from a supermarket. He lost his job due to false accusations, namely that he had not turned up for work one day when he had, in fact, been present. At a meeting arranged by his employers between himself and two lawyers acting on behalf of the supermarket, he had been encouraged to sign a Mutual Termination of Employment Agreement. Even though he had signed this under false pretences, having been told that he would subsequently be allowed to speak to his boss who would consider reinstating him to his former position, this contract was binding. Due to caveat subscriptor, which assumes that the signatory has a full understanding of any document to which he puts his name, and the nature of the contract which he signed, this case could no longer even be considered a dismissal; it was a mutual agreement, leaving him no recourse.
Road Accident Fund
A woman came in to see us regarding a Road Accident Fund claim. Her husband died in a car accident in 2004. She has been seeking compensation ever since from the Road Accident Fund. Her application was refused because the police said that it was her husbands fault. The accident was very serious. Along with our client’s husband, 17 people were killed. Our client has had multiple attorneys, some have said that the accident was his fault, and others have said that it was not. Our goal is to investigate the claim and see if we can get compensation for her.
We have another client who has been seeing us regarding his son who has cerebral palsy. We believe that the client may have a legitimate medical negligence claim and we have been attempting to find an attorney who could take this case pro bono. We consulted with an attorney from DSC attorneys who explained that she too believed that there might be a case of medical negligence, but there must be sufficient proof so that the client can win the case on behalf of his son. The client signed power of attorney forms so that DSC attorneys can represent the client’s son in court. She warned the client that the legal proceedings could take years, but she will arrange an expert to evaluate all of the hospital records to conclude whether t client’s son’s cerebral palsy is a result of medical negligence. If the case is successful, the client would be eligible to receive damages.
One of our cases involves an asylum seeker from Zimbabwe. The client worked as an accountant for the EU and was a signatory for the EU’s development assistance funds which are channelled through NGOs as to rural areas, as a result of the EU sanctions against the Mugabe regime. The areas that receive this funding are strengthening areas of MDC political support, the Mugabe opposition party. In late 2009 the government secret service, which is widely regarded as Mugabe’s personal police, began harassing our client; coming to her house repeatedly and interrogating her about her job. One night, after a few months of this, they came to her house and took her husband for detainment. After being released from a four day detainment, he died in a hospital a few days later from internal injuries. Our client then fled with her three children to a different city, but was forced to return to her job in Harare to support her family after three months. Upon her return the harassment began again, eventually resulting in her own detainment where she was beaten. After her release she and her family fled to Malawi, but that did not work out and they returned to Harare again. In September, when the harassment did not stop, out of fear for her family’s safety, our client came to South Africa. Her original application for asylum was rejected, but we helped her prepare a Notice of Appeal and she has a hearing before the Refugee Appeal Board on December 5th. This is the first time PAHO will represent a client at an appeal hearing and Sanjay, myself and Edward are working hard to prepare a strong case.
There are a number of opportunities in South Africa to apply for community grants, from local governments and national banks, to international organisations and individuals. As a sideline project, one of the volunteers decided that it would be beneficial for Projects Abroad and their partners to have a reference list of the different types of grants available and how to contact these organisations. The advantage of this information is that Projects Abroad can let project partners know of relevant grants that may be used for particular initiatives and to help the individuals who use their services. Furthermore, by helping project partners apply for grants, both Project Abroad volunteers and the organisations develop skills that will increase their understanding of funding processes and articulating the values and objectives of their initiative. Ideally, this would become a springboard for both Projects Aboard and their partners to build long-term links with other community stakeholders.
Finally, we are very proud of our volunteer, Samuele Pavan. Tragically, two of his friends back home in Italy passed away in a car accident. In their honor, Sam decided to collect funds from friends and family members in their honor to donate to a local organisation. Sam was able to raise 22,000 rand to Philisa Abafazi Bethu, a program that focuses on gender based violence and child abuse prevention in Lavender Hill.