Legal Aid South Africa has reopened its offices and its toll-free advice line.
The body – which provides legal aid to people who can’t afford to pay a private attorney – closed its offices and advice line when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 23 March that the country would go into a 21-day lockdown.
The lockdown was later extended for two weeks. The country is now in its second week of a Level 4 lockdown during which more industries, sectors and businesses have been allowed to open as part of the government’s risk-adjusted strategy.
As a result, Legal Aid SA devised a minimal staff workplace plan. It resumed some operations on Wednesday.
“We have put measures in place to ensure the safety of our employees, including deep cleaning and disinfecting of all our offices, health and safety guidelines, staff rotational arrangements, as well as coverage of criminal and civil courts aligned with the staff rotational arrangements,” spokesperson Mfanafuthi Shabangu said in a statement on Thursday.
“We have Covid-19 compliance officers designated at each office to ensure that arrangements are made to screen every employee or visitor seeking entry to our offices,” Shabangu added.
Walk-in clients will not be allowed during this period but members of the public are encouraged to contact their nearest legal aid office to speak to a legal practitioner.
“Those with confirmed appointments will be expected to wear a mask, follow social distancing prescripts and other regulations when they visit Legal Aid SA offices,” Shabangu added.
Members of the public are also encouraged to make use of the advice line. Agents will advise whether applications for legal aid are permitted under the Level 4 lockdown regulations.
Permitted services under Level 4 include, among others, court appearances, bail applications and cases where accused persons are in detention.
“All other cases should be postponed as per the court directions and where possible, these postponements will be done using audiovisual tools or other technology-based means,” Shabangu said.