The Durban office of ProBono.Org has two staff attorneys who deal with our various help desks. They are Petrina Chetty, who joined in August 2014 and Trisha Dhoda, who joined in January 2016.
In addition to her other help desks, Petrina took over the refugee law portfolio in December 2015 as she wanted to learn more about this area of law. Refugee law is one of our core focus areas and one of our main challenges is recruiting attorneys to assist us with refugee law. In an effort to recruit attorneys, we have already held two seminars for attorneys on refugee law this year, presented by experts in the field. We will be holding other refugee training seminars to equip attorneys with the knowledge and skills required to assist us with our refugee work.
Petrina’s other area of speciality is family law, with the help desk being one of our consistently busy ones. We recently saw a rise in the number of elderly people who approached us for assistance with instituting divorce proceedings. To curb the increase in divorces, Petrina believes that mediation would assist and hopes that more attorneys with mediation skills will contribute toward this endeavour.
Petrina has found that applications for protection orders at the Chatsworth Magistrate’s Court help desk are seemingly endless and we have a real demand for attorneys in Chatsworth who can assist us with these. Fortunately, ProBono.Org is becoming more popular amongst attorneys and the community in Chatsworth and we anticipate that more attorneys will be involved in our Chatsworth matters in the near future.
Trisha facilitates the deceased estates, consumer and housing law help desks as well as the general law help desk at the Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court. The consumer law help desk is situated at the Durban Magistrate’s Court and assists clients by dealing with matters under the Consumer Protection Act, ranging from contracts to garnishee orders.
The deceased estates help desk is our busiest. It is strategically held at the Master’s Office where our attorneys generally consult with between 25 and 35 clients a week. We have fostered an excellent relationship with the Master’s Office and their staff, who go out of their way to assist us with queries. The Deputy Master regularly commends ProBono.Org for the work that we do with them. We have found that most of our clients simply need legal advice and guidance on how to report a deceased estate. Many of our clients have low levels of education and are simply unaware of legal processes. Our attorneys are to be commended for their work in this field as they have shown themselves to be more than happy to assist clients and take their time explaining the details of the matter.
Our housing clinic sees many clients grappling with landlord/tenant disputes. It is here that we also see the prevalence of fraud matters. Many elderly clients approach us reporting that their properties have been fraudulently transferred to a third party without their knowledge and consent. Trisha has found that these cases can become quite emotional and the harsh plight of these clients is very apparent. Trisha therefore plans to hold more community seminars to educate communities and make them aware of these dangers, in the hope that this will reduce the number of people being swindled.