Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
18 November 2019
A draft policy paper focused on the regulation of the Community Based Advice Office sector is under development.
The deputy minister of justice and constitutional development, John Jeffery, confirmed this while delivering a keynote address at the 35 Year Celebration of the Social Change Assistance Trust in Cape Town.
He added that the draft policy will be presented at a national consultative workshop for the Community Advice Office (CAO) sector and other stakeholders and will be followed by a White Paper.
The deputy minister described CAOs as filling a gap in promoting access to justice in South Africa by providing services that contribute to social justice and facilitating access to government services for the poor and marginalised.
In order to assist in regulating and strengthening the CAO sector, the deputy minister emphasized that three main issues needed to be focused on, namely, the regulation of the CAO sector, the regulation of community-based paralegals and the long-term financial sustainability of the CAO sector.
According to the deputy minister, a Discussion Document on the future of the CAO sector in South Africa was drawn up in 2018 focused on the reinvigoration of the regulation process.
“The Discussion Document was the subject of broad national and provincial consultations held between April and June 2019 and inputs and recommendations from these consultations have been collated and incorporated in the draft Policy Paper.”
The deputy minister indicated that the justice and constitutional development department holds the view that the lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework has resulted in serious challenges within the CAO sector.
“In light of CAOs’ positive contribution to access to justice in South Africa and in order to address the challenges they are facing, consideration should be given to the CAO sector and community-based paralegals being regulated in terms of legislation.”
Advantages to flow from regulation of the sector include enhancing access to justice; strengthening the role of CAOs and community-based paralegals in ensuring access to justice in South Africa; helping to grow and sustain the sector; professionalizing the sector and community-based paralegals and creating a platform for ongoing interaction with the government and other stakeholders.
The department wants the CAO sector and community-based paralegals to be regulated in terms of legislation via so-called “co-regulation” which “combines elements of self-regulation with the support – including but not limited to financial support – and participation from government”.
“Co-regulation envisages that government establishes the CAO governance structure through legislation and includes some critical regulatory provisions, whilst leaving the detailed regulatory framework to the CAO governing body.”