This past year has been difficult for our country and the world at large due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Government’s pronouncement that people must remain at home to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus caused heightened levels of anxiety and tension and created a strain on the economy. Job losses became prevalent and the promise of social assistance from Government in some cases did not materialise.
The pandemic brought with it: an increase in domestic violence against women and children; small businesses closing due to financial trouble; and the escalation of landlord/tenant disputes and threatened unlawful evictions. It increased the demand for pro bono assistance at a time when social distancing became imperative.
New ways of providing pro bono assistance had to be sought. Virtual legal helpdesks, webinars for entrepreneurs and online litigation through Caselines were all methods that Fasken adopted to provide access to justice. The lockdown resulted in us constantly approaching the lower courts in Gender Based Violence matters to obtain protection orders. We were called upon to bring an urgent high court application in an unlawful eviction of a community.
With the high courts barely functional and through using Caselines, which was fairly new, we managed to successfully obtain an urgent court order restoring occupation. Instead of community workshops we hosted a webinar on “The Impact of Covid on Entrepreneurs and how to mitigate risks” in partnership with ProBono.Org and the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Entrepreneurship for small businesses who were facing legal challenges due to COVID-19. This pandemic has taught us that the need for pro bono assistance will never go away and through partnerships with organisations like ProBono.Org, access to justice can be achieved even through challenging circumstances. Now more than ever we need a community of professionals dedicated to the provision of pro bono services.