Rhodes University Media Statement on RULACDate Released: Mon, 22 July 2013 08:59 +0200
Mr Wesley Hayes is the Director of the Queenstown Rural Legal Centre which is an office of the Rhodes University Law Clinic. In addition, he is the Deputy Director of the Rhodes University Law Clinic.
An objective of the Rhodes University Law Clinic is to provide free legal advice and services to people who are deemed to be indigent. Indigence is assessed on an individual basis and not a family or group basis.
Mr Hayes was instructed on an urgent basis by members of the Mandela family. Mr Hayes was previously known to the Mandela family.
At the time of the instruction it was established that a number of the applicants were indigent. 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. It was decided that it would be beneficial for all the applicants to be joined in one application against the respondent. It is not uncommon for law clinics to represent groups of people including some who are not indigent in litigation involving matters that impact on human rights and the socio-economic conditions of disadvantaged communities.
One of the objectives of the Rhodes Law Clinic is to litigate on matters that impact on human rights and socio-economic conditions of disadvantaged communities. In taking on the “Mandela exhumation matter”, Mr Hayes was acting in accordance with this strategic objective. An issue involved in this matter included the tension between the role of women in traditional matters vis a vis women’s rights in terms of the Constitution. The view was that Mr Mandla Mandela’s approach to deciding this family matter was at the expense of women’s voices in the family.
The Law Clinic takes on matters without favour or fear of political repercussions, as all law clinics are obliged to do. 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.
Rhodes University can confirm that Mr Mandla Mandela has made certain allegations in a formal complaint against Mr Hayes to the Cape Law Society. We do not wish to speculate on his reasons for doing so, even though the allegations appear to be spurious and aimed at discrediting Mr Hayes. Rhodes University and Mr Hayes shall cooperate fully with the Cape Law Society, should there be an investigation. We further confirm that the Mandela family fully supports Mr Hayes.
The Applicants instructed Mr Hayes to bring an urgent application for the exhumation of the remains of three of former President Nelson Mandela’s children. The information which they provided to him in order to make the application is privileged.
The family requested that the application be heard in camera as it did not wish the state of health of former President Nelson Mandela to be discussed in a public forum.
The Judge granted this request and ordered that this application be heard in camera and that all the documents relating thereto remain strictly confidential. Neither Mr Hayes nor Rhodes University are thus in a position to divulge what transpired at the hearing.
The Cape Law Society has made an administrative error as regards Mr Hayes’s status as a practicing attorney. Mr Hayes is a practicing attorney and is thus fully entitled to act on behalf of the Mandela family and indeed all clients of the Law Clinic.