Madadeni Advice Office
Tel: 034 314 5091
Sonto Nene. Sonto Nene has worked for the advice office since 1998.
1855 square kilometres
Madadeni Advice Office reaches the areas of Madadeni Township, Ncandu, Leicester, Masondeza, Johnstone, Jobstown, Blaawbosch, Maaskraal, Mathukusa and Soul City, Riversmeet, Canaan. Some of the areas served are rural and fall under the traditional leadership of Amakhosi and Izinduna.
Madadeni is a town of approximately 120,000 people situated 10 kilometres east of Newcastle. According to Statistics South Africa, the population of the local Newcastle Municipality is 389 100. The municipality is a mixture of urban development and informal settlements, and many areas are characterized by poverty and poor basic services. 37% of people are unemployed, and youth unemployment is 49%. 32% of the population are under 15, 63% are between 15 and 64, and 5% are 65 and over. 87% of homes have electricity, 50% have piped water, and a third of people have a Matric qualification. There are several tribal authorities and traditional leaders wield great influence in people’s everyday lives.
The main economic sectors in the municipality are manufacturing (27%), general government (18%), wholesale and retail trade (14%), business services (10%), finance and insurance (7%).
In 2016, the office dealt with 496 cases, of which 55% involved domestic violence and a third related to advice on obtaining financial rights, documents and solving neighbours’ disputes. The office successfully resolved 284 cases using mediations, helped 29 women to obtain protection orders, and obtained child maintenance and credit settlements that benefitted 28 people.
Two thirds of clients were female and a third male. 76% were aged 18-59, 22% were over 59 and 2% were under 18. Of clients aged 18-59, only 42% were employed and 58% were unemployed.
Interview with Sonto Nene
How long have you worked for the advice office?
What led you to become a community-based paralegal?
I have a passion to work for the community. I am lucky that my dream has become a reality.
What are the most common cases that your clients come to you with?
They are domestic violence, labour disputes and legal advice.
How do you deal with those cases?
With domestic violence I usually do mediations. They are mostly successful. Sometimes I issue protection orders for the women.
Is there any law you would like to change?
I would amend the law to help women who live with their boyfriends. Often they live like a married couple for many years and have children, but when the husband dies the husband’s family chase the woman away and they don’t get anything of the husband’s.
What role do traditional customs play in your work?
I have had a few cases where a client has wanted compensation, for example because they accused someone of bewitching them. I tried to solve it using mediation but they insisted on compensation, so I referred them to the traditional court.
Would you say people’s attitudes and behaviour are starting to change?
Yes, men respect us more now because of all the mediations, presentations and workshops we have done.
Who are your role models?
My role model is my director Winnie Kubayi. She is intelligent, creative, she doesn’t give up and she has always been there for me.
What advice would you give children in Madadeni?
I would advise them to focus on their studies and to forget about friends, because without education they will be nobody.
What are the biggest challenges that you face in your work?
There is a shortage of transport for home visits and to travel to school and community presentations.
Can you describe a case that you found particularly rewarding?
There was a married couple and the man was abusing the woman by cheating on her and spending his money on girlfriends. One of them became pregnant. I invited them both for mediation and the man was very apologetic. He said he hadn’t realised that he had been hurting his wife and he apologised to her. Even the girlfriend apologised to her. After that the husband changed his behaviour. I have done follow-ups and spoken to the wife and she says everything is fine now.