The CAO National Consultative Workshop was opened by Ms Kalay Pillay from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD).
- Her opening remarks were followed by the keynote speech delivered by the Deputy Minister of Justice, Hon John Jeffrey, who, among other topics, spoke about the importance of the community-advice sector (CAO) and community-based paralegals (CBPs) for the improved access to justice in South Africa.
2.1. The Deputy Minister also raised the issue of the relationship between the current regulatory process led by the DOJ&CD and the Section 34(9) of the Legal Practice Act. In particular, he referred to a meeting the DOJ&CD and the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) held with the Legal Practice Council (LPC) on 25 October 2019. During the meeting, it was agreed that the Council would provide DOJ&CD with its written submission on this Policy Paper that deals with the regulation of the CAO sector and community-based paralegals, and that this would discharge the Council’s obligation under section 34(9) of the Legal Practice Act with respect to the regulation of the CBPs, but not other paralegals. The Deputy Minister emphasised, however, that according to the discussions during this meeting, the LPC remained obliged to provide recommendations on the regulation of paralegals others than CBPs working at CAOs, as stipulated under section 34(9) of the LPC.
- Following the presentation by the Deputy Minister, the questions from the public followed. In particular, participants wanted to know the following:
3.1. Given the lengthiness of the process, how much more time will the process take?
3.2. There has been a lot emphasis on community-based paralegals, but little interest in the sector as a whole. What about advocacy and lobbying initiatives?
3.3. Another participant inquired about the measures proposed by the DOJ to ensure that the CAO sector continues to exist while the regulatory process is ongoing.
- The representative of the Legal Practice Council also commented on the statement made by the Deputy Minister in relation to the Section 34(9) of the Legal Practice Act, and the responsibilities of the LPC in this regard, and said she wanted to clarify certain issues. In particular, she noted that in the context of the discussion between the LPC, FHR and DOJ&CD in October 2019, it was agreed that the LPC would provide its comments to the
Draft Policy Paper on the Regulation of the CAO sector, but it would not suffice to bypass the LPC’s responsibility in terms of Section 34(9) and therefore, the LPC was still going forward with its recommendations in terms of this section of the Legal Practice Act. She also noted that the number of legal practitioners is much higher that the number included in the Draft Policy Paper on the Regulation of the CAO sector. The Deputy Minister responded saying that it seems that the DOJ&CD and the LPC still have different positions on the matter and therefore, they may have to meet to have another discussion on the subject.
- The Deputy Minister also responded to some other questions. In particular, he said that the legislative process might be lengthy, especially nowadays when there is a high demand for bills. The DM stressed that officials from the DOJ&CD would be in a better position to respond to the question related to the PLEAJ programme, as he did not know the status of the bureaucratic process.
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