Estcourt Advice Office
Tel: 036 352 6886
Phumelele Mathonsi. Phumelele has worked at the advice office since 2011.
3399 sq. km
The advice office serves Estcourt with its large township, as well as nearby Ntabamhlophe, Wembezi, Loskop, Cornfields, Thembalihle, Fodderville, Collitta, Esigodlweni, Frere, Ntokozweni, eMabhanoyini, uMgunyathi, Zwelisha, Sikhonyane, Winterton, Colenso and surrounding farms.
According to Statistics South Africa, the population of the Inkosi Langalibalele Local Municipality* where Estcourt is situated is 215 300. 37% of people are unemployed, with youth unemployment standing at 47%. The definition of unemployment used here does not include those who have given up looking for work, and therefore the actual rate is higher. 90% of the municipal population are Black, 6% are Indian/Asian and 2% are White.
The main economic sectors are farming, manufacturing and tourism. 69% of homes are formal dwellings, 73% of homes have electricity and 43% have running water, while 27% have a Matric qualification. 34% of people are aged under 15, 62% are aged 15-64, and just 4% are 65 and over. The population density is 42 people per square kilometer, and most people live in either urban or farming areas.
*The Inkosi Langalibalele Local Municipality was formed on 3rd August 2016 by the merging of the uMtshezi and Imbabazane local municipalities. The employment, age and infrastructure statistics used here are from the 2011 census for the previous uMtshezi Municipality, which is the area served by the advice office.
In 2016 the office dealt with 118 cases, with the most common being legal advice on obtaining documents financial rights, followed by domestic violence. The office successfully resolved 20 cases through mediations.
The advice office records the socio-economic background of clients who open cases. In 2016 they were the following:
- 81% were female and 19% were male
- 85% were aged 19-59, 10% were over 60, and 5% were children.
- Of clients aged 19-59, 53% were unemployed and only 47% were in employment.
Interview with Phumelele Mathonsi
How long have you worked for the advice office?
What led you to work for the advice office?
The passion to work for and to assist communities led me to work for CCJD. I was a paralegal before and working with communities is something that is in my veins. I enjoy helping other people.
What are the most common problems that clients come to you with?
The most common problems are social problems, domestic violence and legal advice. A high rate of unemployment is the cause of some of these problems.
How do you deal with cases of domestic violence?
I call both parties for mediation. If the problem remains unresolved I refer the complainant to apply for a protection order in court.
Are there any laws that you would like to see changed?
I would change the Maintenance Act, because its focus is on the man whereas there are woman who abandon their children and don’t support them. Most women use this law to abuse and to punish their ex-boyfriend.
How do you balance your work with traditional customs?
By making sure that I applied the law, but at the same time not forgetting to consider and to respect traditional customs.
Have the attitudes and behaviour of people in Estcourt changed since you have been here?
Yes, man and woman have changed their attitude and behaviour: they respect, listen and care for each other more now. I have contributed a lot in changing the lives of teenagers by giving them advice.
What advice would you give to children growing up in Estcourt?
I would tell them to respect and listen to elders, focus on their studies, avoid bad things which will destroy their future and to work hard in order to fulfil their dreams.
Who is your role model, and why?
My role model is my mother, who was a domestic worker. She wasn’t able to give us everything but she cared and raised us with love.
What are the main challenges that you face at work?
Transport is a big challenge to my work, as some cases needs urgent attention and it’s not easy to do that without your own transport, especially if you have to do a home visit. There is also a need to have two paralegals to make sure that the office is open at all times.
Can you tell us about a case that was particularly rewarding for you?
Yes, there was a case where a client’s husband disappeared, nowhere to be found. The fund requested a death certificate in order to release his benefits. I advised the client that she needs to apply for a presumption of death. I referred this case to The Law Clinic. It was a long wait but later a presumption of death was issued and benefits were paid to the client.