Ekuvukeni Advice Office
Tel: 034 293 1009
Nombuso Ngcobo. Nombuso Ngcobo has worked for the advice office since 1998.
Alfred Duma Local Municipality (Northern KwaZulu-Natal)
3 764 sq. km
The advice office serves the communities of Somsuku, Uitval, KwaHlathi, Elenge, Mhlumayo, Wesselsnek, Tholeni, Limehill, Wasbank, Helpmekaar, Ekuvukeni Township, and Emachunwini.
The town of Ekuvukeni is located 50 kilometers east of Ladysmith and has a population of approximately 11,000. The municipality is predominantly rural and is characterized by an unusually high level of poverty and poor infrastructure. Most of the roads are in bad condition, and some only exist as tracks.
The population of the local municipality* is 356 300 and 57% of people are unemployed, with youth unemployment standing at 67%. These rates are among the highest for the areas in which CCJD operates and the advice office database suggests that unemployment is even higher: in 2016, 84% of clients aged 19-59 were without work.
61% of homes are formal dwellings, 58% of houses have electricity and only 11% have piped water, while just 21% of people have a Matric qualification. 63% of households are headed by women, 43% of people are aged under 15, 52% are between 15 and 64, and just 5% are 65 and older. The main industries are manufacturing, agriculture, tourism and services. There are several tribal authorities that exert a large influence on people’s lives.
*Alfred Duma Local Municipality was established by the amalgamation of Emnambithi/Ladysmith Local Municipality and Indaka Local Municipality on 3 August 2016. The employment, age and infrastructure statistics here are from the 2011 census of the old Indaka Municipality, which is the area where the advice office operates.
In 2016 the advice office dealt with 137 cases, with the great majority (81%) being legal advice on obtaining financial rights such as provident funds. The office helped clients to claim at least R 350,000 in provident funds and successfully resolved nine cases using mediation.
In 2016 84% of clients aged 19-59 were unemployed. 52% of clients were female and 48% were male. 58% were aged 19-59, 39% were over 60, and 3% were children.
Interview with Nombuso Ngcobo
How long have you worked for the advice office?
What led you to work for CCJD?
My father was a businessman and I used to work for him. He taught me how to work with desperate and poor people and to talk and listen to them. I learned that I like to work for the community and to empower people about the law. I have fulfilled my dream by working for the CCJ.
What are the most common types of cases that you deal with?
They are legal advice, such as death benefits, social problems like children taking drugs, and child abuse, including emotional abuse.
How do you deal with these problems?
With legal advice we make sure the client gets the right documents to claim death benefits after a spouse has died. With juvenile problems, we invited the children and parents in and address them about drugs and other issues.
Is there a law that you would like to see changed?
Yes, in child abuse cases I would say that there shouldn’t be any bail. Sometimes the accused is out on bail and intimidates the child’s family. Also, a child should not have to testify in front of the accused, but should do so in front of a camera instead.
Have you noticed the people’s attitudes have changed since you have worked in Ekuvekeni?
Yes, some men have changed their attitudes. They have stopped being so violent and abusive to their girlfriends and wives, and more of them come to my office now to ask for help.
Do you ever use customary laws to solve problems?
Not often, buy there was a case where a boy insulted someone and they wanted compensation. I arranged for mediation and in the end the boy agreed to pay damages of a goat.
What advice would you give to children growing up in Ekuvekeni?
I would say abstain from sex and stay away from drugs, and crime doesn’t pay.
Do you have a role model you could tell us about?
My role model is my director Winnie Martins. I am very proud of her, she is so brilliant and clever. What I am is because of her organisation.
Is there a particular case that you could share that you found especially satisfying?
There was a man whose son was buried in Johannesburg. According to traditional custom, all the family have to be buried together so that they can be close to eachother after death. He wanted the body to be exhumed. I managed to argue according to the human rights of the man that the son’s body had to be moved to this area (Ekuvukeni). And the body was brought here.