Rhodes University Vice Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat has come out in defence of a controversial role played by the university’s law clinic in the Mandela Family feud.
A decision by the Rhodes University Law Clinic (RULC) to represent a section of the Mandela family in an ugly feud against the Mandla Mandela section has caused a public outcry. The cracks of the outcry is that the RULC, with a mandate of assisting financially challenged citizens, is dishing out its service to an affluent group of people. The outcry has obviously shaken the university and pushed Badat to issue a statement. Here follows a statement issued by Badat:
You would have read in the Sunday Times of this past Sunday (21 July 2013), and in other South African newspapers and listen on radio stations, in subsequent days, about the involvement of the Rhodes University Law Clinic (RULC) in the Mandela Family vs. Mr Mandla Mandela “exhumation matter”.
The media has criticised the RULC and the University for representing members of the Mandela family on the matter and for “allegedly” funding the case.
The facts are:
The decision to take on the matter
§ Mr Wesley Hayes, the Director of the Queenstown Rural Legal Centre, which is an office of the Rhodes University Law Clinic, was instructed on an urgent basis by members of the Mandela family.
§ At the time of the instruction it was established that a number of the applicants were indigent. Indigence is assessed on an individual basis, and is determined on the basis of a Means Test as applied by Legal Aid South Africa.
§ A second motivation for taking on this matter included the tension between the role of women in traditional matters vis a vis women’s rights in terms of the Constitution.
§ A call was made to the management of the Law Clinic requesting permission to take on the matter. Permission was granted as the management was satisfied that there was compliance with the means test.
§ Once the Law Clinic had made the decision to represent the applicants it had a duty to do all that was needed to advance those individuals’ interests and secure their rights.
§ While the RULC was aware that some members of the Mandela family could afford own legal representation, it was decided that it would be beneficial for all the applicants to be joined in one application against the respondent, an approach which is not uncommon.
The cost of legal case
§ The RULC clients are not charged a fee and costs are recovered when the Law Clinic is successful in obtaining a costs order, as is the case in the three applications involving the “Mandela exhumation matter” against Mr Mandla Mandela.
§ The case has not cost the RULC anything except the time of Mr Hayes, who is a salaried employee of Rhodes University.
§ Win or lose, the RULC would not have to pay costs. If the case had been lost – which was not – the Mandela family would have been liable for costs. The RULC would not have had to pay any costs as it is not a party to the proceedings.
Meeting with Mr Mandla Mandela
Mr Mandla Mandela has indicated through the media that he is seeking a meeting with the University.
The University will give due consideration to any request for a meeting that is made by Mr Mandla Mandela should we be formally approached.
Dr Saleem Badat