Ixopo Advice Office
Tel: 039 834 2169
Judith Caluza. Judith joined the office in 2014.
Ubuhlebezwe (Southern KwaZulu-Natal)
1604 square kilometres
The office reaches the town of Ixopo and the surrounding communities of Lufafa, Fairview, Mashakeni, Mariathal, Carrisbrook, Hopewell, Mahehle, Ncakubana, Nokweja, Amazabeko, Bovini, Jolivet, Highflats, Springvale, Kwathathani, Hlokozi, Nhlangwin, Umgodi, Nhlalwane, Creighton, Masamini, Donnybrook and Umzimkulu. There are many farms in the area, mainly dairy.
Ixopo is located 85 km south of Pietermaritzburg and has a population of approximately 12,500 people. The office is based at the local Magistrate Court.
According to Statistics South Africa, the population of the Ubuhlebezwe Local Municipality is 108 600. The unemployment rate is 34% and youth unemployment 42%. Our advice office records show a similar picture: in 2016, 46% of clients of working age were unemployed and 54% were working.
The 2011 national census recorded that 37.4% of people in the municipality are aged under 18, 57.4% are aged 19-64, and 5.3% are over 65. 12% of homes had piped water and 54% had electricity, while only 20% of people possessed a Matric qualification. Just 30% of dwellings were formal.
The main economic sectors in the area are farms (mainly dairy) and government, which is helped by the fact that Ixopo is the admin-istrative centre of the Harry Gwala District Municipality. There are many small businesses such as grocers and clothes shops, and tourism is a further source of employment.
In 2016 the office attended to 495 cases, with the great majority (91%) involving domestic violence. Staff successfully resolved 43 cases through mediations and helped 130 clients obtain protection orders.
46% of clients of working age were unemployed and 54% were working. 80% of clients were female and 20% male. 84% were aged 19-60, 13% were over 60 and 3% were children.
Interview with Bazamile Magubane
How long have you worked for the advice office?
What led you to become a paralegal?
I knew it was a company that works with the community. I wanted to help people and love to work with people.
What are the most common cases that your clients come to you with?
They are domestic violence cases.
How do you deal with those cases?
We use mediation and protection orders. I would say that protection orders work about 50% of the time. They have bad effects sometimes and can help lead to divorce. Mediation usually works, but not all the time.
Is there any law you would like to change?
I would change the customary law of lobola. I feel domestic violence is started by lobola. Men think they can rule and control their wives as a result of having paid lobola. When a man abuses his wife, he thinks that wife is his property and he has the right to do whatever he wants. He feels ‘How can she complain when I have paid for her?’
What role do traditional customs play in your work?
We don’t deal with cases using those customs. We just tell clients their rights according to the law. If they don’t want to use the law, we refer them to the traditional courts.
Would you say people’s attitudes and behaviour are starting to change?
Yes. Some men change after mediation when they learn that women also have rights.
Who are your role models?
My role model is my honourable director Winnie Kubayi. The way she takes her work seriously, respects her employees, the effort she makes to make us happy, and how strong she is.
Can you describe a case that you found particularly rewarding or difficult?
There is a type of case: when I have intervened in a case of serious domestic violence and done a follow-up and I find out that I have made changes in that house. Then I feel great and honoured.
What are the biggest challenges that you face in your work?
The biggest challenge is transport. The police are helpful but can’t always assist us as they are themselves short of vehicles. As a result we sometimes come two hours late to appointments. This undermines our standing in the community. We have no electricity and it also gets very hot sometimes in the office so we open the door and then there is no privacy.
I would like head office to organise counselling twice a year. Our work is stressful and it affects us emotionally and psychologically. Every day I see problems in marriage. If we could get this help it would boost our minds and give us more energy for our work.
What advice would you give children growing up in Ixopo?
Children should be aware that they have responsibilities as well as rights. They should be aware of drugs – some children start trying them from age nine. They should respect their parents. For example some children call the police to report their parents instead of listening to them.