Reference to my first article that can be found in the this link: Sustainability of Paralegal project. During my visit to the Orange farm South Africa, I got inspired that very soon I shall have a closure to my dream of seeing to it that paralegal projects could generate their own income and thus reducing on the dependence on grants from donors.
The journey which was on the 25th of April 2016 started with some delays with the car hire company but fortunately was resolved. I was in the company of two courageous ladies from NADCAO by the names of Khanyisile and Sheila (our courageous driver). Word on the street was that there was a strike in the farm and all the routes to the farm were closed. Any way we made it though we had to go through the blocked road and I had to hide my fear and be the man in the car, I remember when Khanyisile joked and said they don’t want to call my family and say that "Mustafa is Tololo (a slang meaning no more). Thank God we reached safe and sound.
We were to visit one of the partner community advice centers in the Orange farm, the advice center is headed by one Mr. Bricks as he is famously known. He is also the chair of ACAOSA of Gauteng. A very elaborate gentleman who is very down to earth and if you could come on an ordinary day you would have thought he is one of the workers in the compound since most of the time he puts on his welding overalls and blends in with the rest of his employees.
Mr. Bricks says the farm was started as early as 1987 and they lack basic amenities and have high rates of unemployment. During our conversation, he kept insisting on community ownership of the project and that’s the most sustainable approach of any project. The project which occupies roughly half an acre of land has a pre-school, a garbage recycling project, a farm and also a welding project. Do you have land that is idle and can be put to good use?
He claims the land was a dumping site. No one claimed the land and it was just a wasted piece of land. " I always ask myself, who fenced the garden of Eden!" (My favorite quote from this wise comrade). I decided to mobilize the community and we fenced the land and later went to apply for the title of the land. This application is another long story which I hope I will share soon on the community land page titled “Who fenced the garden of Eden”.
The community was able to give pressure to the city council until the mayor decided to construct a temporary building for the community advice center. It began with one hall, then the farm, then the school and the garbage recycling project. Now the project employs over 15 youths and women. Among them are the paralegals who since 1994 have been advising the community on legal issues like the 1994-1996 campaigns of the new Constitution, getting involved in labor issues, helping migrants like Zimbabweans in the farm among other issues. “You have to make your paralegals masters in everything equip them with other skills for their survival” for sure coming from a country where the whole paralegal sector had collapse in 2003, you ought to have learnt not to depend on one income.
He has partnered with one of the the North West University Engineering department and every year they train four youths on welding and engineering skills and among them are their paralegals. He also mentioned that the building which the mayor constructed and the schools were designed by volunteer students who were studying architecture and design. As a paralegal project do you have networks with Universities? Have you ever tried to make use of it? Is there room for joint empowerment?
During the visit, I realized that not all plastics are the same and the that the clear plastics are of more value than the colored ones. Now am an expert in plastic recycling . So how do they get the plastics? “After assisting our clients and they insist on paying us, we ask them to give us their waste products like plastics and glasses and that’s what we use to make the money in return.” Imagine giving out rubbish as payment of service. The other factor is the community still consider the place a dumping site and they are welcome to dump all their waste which is later sorted into different categories for processing. The glass bottles are crushed and packed separately, the cans are also sorted on the basis of materials i.e. aluminium, the plastics are also sorted in terms of color and their numbers for easy processing and also based on quality. The after products are later supplied to processing companies based on their needs an the market is big at the same time contributing to the reduction of the pollution of the environment.
So how does the community advice center (Paralegal project) benefit from the project? “The paralegals themselves work in the other projects so they have a source of income, in addition, 25% of the Income of the projects is used to finance the advice center’s operation costs.” I was tempted to ask if the project could run without funding and the response: “Mustafa, during our conversation, have I mentioned or complained about funding?” It was true during the entire visit he had not complained about shortage of funding compared to the other centers that depended on donor or government funding.
One lesson we should take home is that the project was community initiated and is still owned by the community in trust run by him. How many of our project do the communities have a say in our decisions? Can the community stand by us in difficult times?
Before I left the center, he made me smile by mocking how we paralegal managers and paralegals like white collar jobs " Paralegals like dressing in suites and ties and just sit on the desks thinking they have the solutions to everyone’s problems. Let the community take the initiative and you just advice them and you will see how easy your work will be. You don’t need to do everything for them they just need you assistance and not control." I believe we all do this mistake, we believe we are the community, but the community is greater than us.
Lastly, I wish I could say I finally have a closure to my parable of sustainability but unfortunately I don’t. I will still continue with this quest until I get to the point where I cant track where BRAC started from to have a bank, milk farms, among other projects. But from the example of Bricks, we should learn that we have a lot of idle resources around us and this is in the form of land, networks that we are not using well, among others. Please don’t misquote me by saying that I encouraged you to grab anyone’s land.