Glencoe Advice Office
Tel: 034 393 1009
Sibongile Mchunu. Sibongile has worked for the advice office since 1998.
1610 square kilometres
The advice office serves Glencoe as well as Sithembile Township, Inkunzi, Dundee, Impathe, Hattingspruit, Burnside, Nyanyadu, eMalonjeni, Sibongile Township, eNyanyeni and Thalana communities. Clients come from all areas of the Endumeni Local Municipality, including the many farms that surround Glencoe.
The town of Glencoe is located 300 km north of Durban and has a population of approximately 17 500. The advice office is situated at the police station.
The population of the Endumeni Local Municipality where Glencoe is based is 76 640. According to the most recent census, 26% of people are unemployed and youth unemployment stands at 36%. The definition of unemployment used here does not include those unemployed who have given up looking for work, and therefore the real rate is higher. The advice office records suggest that actual unemployment is higher: in 2016 68% of clients of working age at the advice office were unemployed and only 32% were working.
Many areas are characterized by poverty and poor infrastructure. 87% of homes are classed as formal dwellings, a relatively high number for KwaZulu-Natal, 62% of people have piped water and 79% of homes have electricity, while just 32% have a Matric qualification. 31% of the population are under 15 years of age, 64% are aged 15-64 and just 5% are 65 and over. 84% are Black, 7% White and 6% Indian, and the population density is 40 people per square kilometer.
The main economic sectors in the local municipality are trade (14%), private household/domestic workers (13%), farming (10% – mainly sheep and cattle), manufacturing (7%), business services (5%), construction (5%), and transport (4%). There is also some coal mining.
In 2016, the office dealt with 166 cases, with the most common type being legal advice on obtaining financial rights and documents, followed by domestic violence. It successfully resolved twelve cases through mediations and helped six women to obtain protection orders.
In 2016 68% of clients of working age at the advice office were unemployed and only 32% were working. 74% were female and 26% were male, 78% were aged 19-59, 20% were over 60 and 2% were under 18.
Interview with Sibongile Mchunu
How long have you worked for the advice office?
What led you to work for the advice office?
I have always been interested in humanitarian work. I was working in catering as a tea lady when I heard about the job. I like the work because it empowers women.
What would you say are the biggest challenges facing people in your area?
They are domestic violence, child abuse, rape and labour problems.
Have you had a case when you relied on traditional customs?
I think it’s a polite and respectful way of solving minor problems and keeping it in the family. But we don’t use those methods. They are not part of the law.
Who is your role model?
My late mother – she always supported me, took my side in a fight, forgave me when I had done something wrong, and knew when something was wrong with me.
Are there any laws that would like to see changed?
In cases of child rape, it takes too long for the perpetrator to go to trial. There are too many delays and often the man is not found guilty.
Can you describe one of the most satisfying cases you have dealt with?
Paralegal Sibongile Mchunu hands out wheelchairs as part of a project with a local charity for the disabled
A woman was married to a man who was cheating on her and was well-known as a womaniser. He wouldn’t wear a condom and because of this she refused to sleep with him. She asked me for advice and I told her that it was her legal right to say no to sex because her life was in danger.
I called them both to mediation and told them about the risk of HIV/AIDS. The man was furious and felt that we women were ganging up on him. Then I threatened to take out a protection order and gave the wife advice about a divorce. At this point the man apologised and said he would use a condom in the future. The couple are still together today and everything is okay.
Are there any particular challenges you have in your work?
We have difficulties with transport, the police help us sometimes but it is a problem.
What advice would you give children growing up in Glencoe?
I would tell children to break the silence and expose abusers, and to make informed decisions about relationships, sex and their future. I would tell them that every part of their body is precious.