3 December 2021 Pro Bono & Human Rights Newsletter

Annual Pro Bono & Human Rights Newsletter - Reflections on 2021

As the clock struck 12 on New Year’s eve in December 2020, many breathed a sigh of relief as they said goodbye to 2020 and ushered in what was hoped would be a better, safer and lighter year. But while it may have been an easier year for some, in truth 2021 proved to be just as brutal for most of us – a year that tested us in ways we perhaps have yet to fully process. COVID-19 continued to decimate families and communities – too many were lost, bereaved or rendered very ill, while many others lost jobs, homes and livelihoods in the wake of the economic devastation that has accompanied the pandemic. We also witnessed violence and anarchy engulf parts of the country that tore at the very fabric of our democratic nationhood. We lost a sense of security, hope and perhaps our trust in the future.

How then, I ask, did we as individuals, a practice, a firm and a nation get through it? As a practice I believe we did so by being resilient, by facing down the crises and difficulties and overcoming them through strength of character and commitment, not just to ourselves but to others and to the values that I now know literally define us as people and as a practice. And by sticking together and supporting one another – and making the effort to find moments even amid the numerous serious items on our weekly agendas to laugh together.

When exploring the concept of resilience I came across the following quote by Sharon Salzberg who has described the essence of it as follows:

“Resilience is based on compassion for ourselves as well as compassion for others.”

Looking back on what we achieved this year as a practice, and as a firm, despite the trials, I feel exceptionally proud to know that despite significant personal and systemic challenges, we continued to fight hard, and determinedly to serve our clients and the communities we strive to help, with dedication and with commitment. While trying to remain compassionate to ourselves, we continued to find compassion for others. And indeed, I believe it was by focusing on compassion for others, by continuing to do what we could as lawyers, and as human beings, to help others, we found the strength and purpose to face the obstacles and even the despair.

The Pro Bono & Human Rights Practice (Pro Bono Practice) takes great pride and pleasure in reporting that, collectively Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Inc (CDH) donated over 11,885 hours (in excess of R31 million) in pro bono legal services to deserving individuals, organisations and causes during 2021.

Thank you to my team, all my colleagues at CDH, the advocates who gave generously of their time on a pro bono basis, and the many partner organisations we worked with, for helping us fulfil our mandate this year as the Pro Bono Practice, a mandate which is perhaps more important than ever. 

To our many stakeholders and clients, below is an account of some of our significant achievements in the year under review. We helped many in many ways and stood firm in our commitment to promoting justice, dignity and equality and the rights and values enshrined in our Constitution. The mountain is high, but we continue to climb it.

Wishing you all a well-deserved, safe, and peaceful holiday.

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