Johannesburg legal centre gets online boost from Telkom
A community legal centre in Johannesburg that protects the legal rights of the poor and assists indigent persons of all races to obtain legal representation, was taken into the 21st Century when Telkom handed over three Pentium computers to assist in their day to day activities.
The donation to the Johannesburg Community Legal Centre forms part of the company`s "Adopt-a-Project" empowerment initiative, for which the Telkom Foundation has committed an annual budget of over R1 million.
In terms of this initiative, members of the company`s top management team are asked to identify and adopt a needy institution of their choice, whose programmes are deserving of financial assistance.
The centre, which handles up to 60 legal enquiries a day, came into being in 1930 under the leadership of Pauline Lipson, who was recently honoured by the University of the Witwatersrand for her contribution to uplifting the poor.
Known then as the Legal Aid Bureau, the centre was renamed in the post-1994 era. Staffed by 13 permanent members and two part-timers, the centre gives legal advice and assistance, and makes representations to and negotiates with any government, municipal or other body.
The centre focuses mainly on labour matters, drafting of wills, small claims matters, deceased estates, divorce settlements and other civil matters.
Despite the monthly assistance the centre receives from Legal Wise, its precarious financial existence has forced the centre to use outdated equipment and operate without computers or word processors.
With the Legal Aid Board having withdrawn or reduced its services, the centre remains the only institution in Johannesburg still dedicated to rendering legal assistance to the indigent.
Speaking at the handover, Mandla Ngcobo, Telkom Group Executive: Legal Services, said he hoped the donated computers would assist the centre in its drive to become a Centre of Excellence in legal services for the poor.
Saying that the centre played an invaluable role in ensuring that justice was not only accessible to the wealthy, Ngcobo said: "Telkom is proud to be involved with this initiative, as it responds directly to the needs of the communities that Telkom serves."
Through the more cost-effective utilisation of resources, the donated computers will enhance the service the centre is able to provide the community.
The computers will be loaded with software that will greatly enhance the centre`s performance. With these capabilities the organisation can become a strategic legal resource centre.
Telkom has also undertaken to provide free Internet connectivity and a monthly allowance for connectivity costs for one year. With this, the centre will be able to use the computers to set up Internet dialogue and access case archives on the Web.
Over the last five years, Telkom has committed more than R100 million to Corporate Social Investment through its Telkom Foundation, the custodian of the company`s social development and community projects.
The Telkom Foundation administers and distributes all corporate social responsibility funds on behalf of Telkom. Core to the foundation`s philosophy is a desire to improve the quality of life of all South Africans. The foundation has adopted a tight strategic focus and its primary objective is boosting the quality of maths, science and technological education in disadvantaged communities.
Since 1998 Telkom and its strategic equity partner, Thintana Communications, have spent over R50 million on information, communication and technology infrastructure in schools throughout the country.
The inclusion of Internet connectivity has taken the information age to 1 340 under-resourced schools nationally, with more than 100 000 young South Africans now connected to the Internet, thanks to Telkom.
The foundation is also in the process of establishing 100 fully-fledged Super Centres at schools throughout the country, with 10 designated per province, except for the Northern Cape, which will have 20.
Each Super Centre consists of 20 computers, which are all connected to the Internet and a single network server.
Further schools per province will be targeted for Telkom Super Centres this financial year - some of these will specifically target schools for disabled learners.