The formation of Community Law and Rural Development Centre (CLRDC) could be traced far back as the late 1980’s amid socio-political upheavals in South Africa and particularly rural communities who were worse hit by apartheid policies of separate development. As a specific response thereof, the then Community Law Centre (CLC) and now CLRDC was conceived to provide a platform for these communities to access basic form of justice and development to address issues affecting them. The role of Traditional Leaders and their constituencies were vital in accepting and piloting the initial years of the organisation.The CLRDC is a non-partisan, registered Section 21 incorporated, and a nonprofit organisation, which promotes access to social justice, human rights and development of constitutional democracy in rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), in particular.
CLRDC’s vision is to see self-sufficient communities with the capacity to understand and pursue human rights and democratic values as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa to advance their socio-economic and justice aspirations for improved quality of life.
The Community Law and Rural Development Centre’s mission is to ensure communities have the knowledge, skills and access to realise their socio-economic and human rights.
The CLRDC’s multi-faceted training programmes are aimed at enhancing understanding of broader human rights, democracy and improved access to information required to sustain participation in socio-economic platforms. In addition, the organisation ensures establishment and support of institutionalised Community-based Advice Offices (CAOs) as local centres for enhancing democracy and rural development for equitable access to justice in rural communities in KZN and Eastern Cape provinces. In this way, CLRDC contributes to its beneficiaries’ ability to shape their own destiny.
CLRDC’s strength and its pride lie in its successful model of establishing and sustaining a network of its CAOs. From the humble beginnings in late 1980’s with only five communities, the organisation boasts of a network of thirty (30) CAOs spread around twenty-one (21) of fifty-one (51) Local Municipalities in KZN and some parts of the Eastern Cape. Each of the network office is staffed by qualified and experienced Paralegal/s who helps dispense access to primary justice, information and legal services and alternative forms of dispute resolution to cases.
Other than being the leading training centre for accredited Paralegals, with diplomas in paralegal studies, CLRDC has also trained AmaKhosi and Paralegal Management Committees (who received Certificates of Competence in relevant fields of law and human rights). It also participates in Civic and Voter Education, Elections Observation (national, provincial and local government elections from 1994 and subsequent election years thereafter. It has produced simplified Constitutional rights series and translated these into isiZulu language which simplified the Constitutional Bill of Rights.
Core Functions of the organisation:
- Continuous training of paralegals and management committees;
- Conducting public educational workshops to raise public awareness of rights and law;
- Provision of legal services to the indigent clients to resolve their problems;
- Provide on-site support and monitoring of community-based paralegals’ work;
- Management and facilitation of project of specialised nature responding to the needs;
- Publication and development of training materials for capacity building;
- Partner and network with other organisations to influence policy changes to favour the vulnerable groups;
- Development of an integrated and linked skills development system for civil society (communities) and NPO.
The current challenges faced by the organisation are common in the NGO sector with the diminishing donor support posing a threat to organizational sustainability. The CLRDC is currently looking for opportunities of potential donors to support its services to rural communities.
The changes in the Higher Education System has also affected the CLRDC training agenda as the Diploma status through the University of KwaZulu-Natal has been lost and there is a need to re-apply for accreditation with South African Qualifications Authority and Safety and Security Sectoral Education and Training Authority (SASSETA) as a private service provider to continue with the training of Paralegals.
The number of active CAOs is currently 21, and needs nine new Paralegals to be trained and fill in vacancies left through resignations and / or death.
There are more opportunities for the CLRDC to expand its services to more rural areas and to offer more specialised training for Paralegals, Local Government and Traditional Structures etc. By investing in the CLRDC’s rural development programme; poverty, inequality and unemployment will be reduced in areas mostly affected and under-serviced. Opportunities for access to justice, human rights and development plays a pivotal role in realisation of Constitutional Rights as enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa.
Impact / Contributions to Society
CAOs play an important role in communities and the current impact over the last three years, an average of R5. 5 million per annum is recovered on behalf of communities and hundreds of thousand people are reached through community-educational workshops, which would otherwise forfeited and thus contributing significantly in ensuring such families receive income which sustain and improves their households’ quality of life.
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