CCJ COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAMME: AN OUTSTANDING MODEL

CCJ COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAMME: AN OUTSTANDING MODEL When the Centre for Criminal Justice (CCJ) in the Faculty of Law introduced its community outreach programmes in Pietermaritzburg in 1997 their case load stood at between five and 35 per week. Thirteen years on the CCJ attends to approximately 9 000 cases annually, 75 percent of which involve individuals who have sought the Centre’s assistance for the first time.


CCJ Director, Dr Winnie Kubayi, has been at the helm of the organisation since 1997. The CCJ works in partnership with the police, paralegals trained by the Centre and community members to educate citizens about their legal rights and assist victims of domestic violence (mainly women). While the CCJ’s community engagement activities focused on the protection of women and children against violence at inception, it has now expanded to include cases pertaining to child maintenance; social grants for pensioners; labour disputes and general awareness of legal rights.

The Plessislaer Pilot Project was born in 1997 after CCJ field workers discovered that women in this community were reluctant to report cases of gender-based violence because of a “lack of sensitivity” on the part of police. An office was set up away from the Charge Office of the Plessislaer Police Station in Pietermaritzburg and manned by community members.

“It was a question of privacy and maybe a lack of sensitivity on the side of police. We looked at the possibility of involving civilians working with police to assist victims of (domestic) violence. If victims of violence are attended to in private, will it encourage them to report cases of violence?” said Dr Kubayi.

The demand for CCJ’s services from communities in the Midlands and Northern KwaZulu-Natal grew over the years and another 13 satellite centres were set up in these regions.

“The outreach programme has been regarded as a good model, a model that could easily be replicated, a model that actually offers practical solutions to people struggling to access justice and a gold mine for research.  We have a data base of almost 100 000 cases…Sharing our experiences and knowledge about issues of access to justice, issues of law that impact ordinary people, that has been a major milestone….we not only theorise the issue of furthering human rights with the law we also have practical experience of how it should be done,” said Dr Kubayi.

Dr Kubayi said she was proud of the CCJ’s hands-on approach to educating and encouraging citizens to exercise their legal rights. She added that the database of information collated by the Centre’s research team offered evidence-based information that could be utilized across disciplines and be useful to scholars of law, management and anthropology for example.  LLB students will also benefit from a course on Access to Justice which is set to commence in 2011.

Having focused on socio-legal issues in the past, the CCJ will now also turn its attention to socio-economic justice said Dr Kubayi: “As much as people have a certain level of awareness of their rights, we have been informed by them (communities)  that we need to start tackling economic emancipation. How do we access employment opportunities in the rural areas? How do we expose our children to employment opportunities? How do we develop as a community? were among the questions that would be addressed by the CCJ.”

According to Dr Kubayi legal and socio-economic justice issues are interlinked and cannot be dealt with individually.author email : maharajne@ukzn.ac.za