Legal Aid SA staff start go-slow over grievances

Legal Aid SA staff start go-slow over grievances

Image: ANA file image.

Workers have complained that they were sitting ducks for criminals, particularly those they represented and lost their cases.

When Northern Cape attorney Brett Sampson left his Legal Aid SA office at 21 Tom Naude Street, Hartswater in Kimberley, in November last year, little did he know that danger was lurking in the alleys.

On that fateful Wednesday afternoon Sampson, the principal attorney responsible for Western and Northern Cape, was waiting for a lift when thugs struck and savagely attacked him for his cellphone, leaving him with head injuries and unable to work since.

He suffered a brain injury that left him with water in the brain (hydrocephalus). He is still going through speech therapy and has difficulty with all his faculties.

Sampson has had surgery on his right ulna and radius (large bones of the forearm), as his arm was fractured in the attack.

Legal Aid SA spokesperson Mfanafuthi Shabangu said: “We can confirm that the employee was attacked by three perpetrators in the ground floor lift lobby which services four floors, three of which are occupied by Legal Aid SA.

“We are advised that all three perpetrators have been arrested by the SAPS with the help of our employees. We unfortunately live in a country with a high crime rate and it is most unfortunate that we all face the risk of being victims of crime at some point.”

Legal Aid SA’s workers, including lawyers and support staff, yesterday demonstrated outside the organisation’s Braamfontein, Johanesburg, offices as part of the build-up to a full-blown strike, with lack of security at work amongst their key grievances.

Workers have complained that they were sitting ducks for criminals, particularly those they represented and lost their cases.

Sampson believe the thugs who attacked him were at some stage Legal Aid SA’s clients.

“I understand that Legal Aid [SA] might have represented the perpetrators prior to the incident … I am considering approaching my own attorneys to attend to my queries on my behalf and if necessary to take action,” he said.

Sampson said he was also going to approach the department of labour to probe if there was any negligence on Legal Aid SA’s part by not providing adequate security to its workers.

To exacerbate his already ill-fated life, Sampson was still in hospital yesterday when his wife called him to say his salary was not paid this month though he was injured on duty.

Shabangu said: “We are happy to have assisted our employee beyond what was legally required, and pleased to learn that the Workmen’s Compensation Fund has accepted his claim and will see to his future needs until he’s fully recovered. Legal Aid sympathises.”

siphom@citizen.co.za

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