South Africa has a new social media platform, ProBonoMatters, designed to improve access to the country’s justice system by allowing ordinary people to list their legal matters for a free attendance by an online network of legal minds.
Hosted on probonomatters.co.za, the new media platform comes to address a critical gap in South Africa’s justice system. South Africa’s justice system is in many cases inaccessible to ordinary people who cannot afford the expensive lawyers’ fees. The justice system is also obscured by a cloak of legal jargon that can only be understood by lawyers.
“As such, ordinary people find themselves having to reinvent the wheel in enforcing their rights and freedoms when on many occasions their matters could be addressed through mere explanation of an established legal precedent,” says ProBonoMatters founder Sibonelo Radebe.
ProBonoMatters also comes to relieve the country’s justice system from an overload of cases by offering a channel towards free legal advice that will solve many matters before they reach the country’s courts. The platform is styled as an open source legal service pillared by partnership with professional lawyers, student lawyers and general members of the public.
The platform allows for discussion of listed legal matters in the open with an option for legal professionals to take on a matter into private consultation on a pro bono basis. This links up with a commitment by many law firms to do certain amount of pro bono service per annum.
Users of the platform have to be as honest as possible in order to secure appropriate advice from professionals.
“South Africa runs with a fairly developed private legal fraternity which is nevertheless expensive and inaccessible to the majority of its people,” says Sibonelo Radebe. ProBonoMatters is positioned as a centralised platform through which legal firms can fulfil their pro bono commitments.
Radebe added that “In coming to address the accessibility gap in the country’s legal system ProBonoMatters is positioned to strengthen our constitutional democracy.”
The platform, says Radebe, could become a critical and constructive let out for aggrieved communities many of which may choose to take to the street.
ProBonoMatters steals from the open source principle which has proved to be a highly useful mechanism to address socioeconomic development. “We are harnessing the old dictum of ‘each one teach one'”. We believe that the open engagement of individuals and groups on our platform will develop a life of its own.”