Susan Smailes, director of the special projects for the university, said Wednesday that one objective of the clinic in taking the prominent case was to highlight the kind of issues that clinic lawyers are pursuing. In a statement on Monday, the university gave other reasons.
“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,” it said.
“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,” it said. It noted “tension” between the role of women in traditional matters and women’s rights enshrined in South Africa’s constitution.
Freddy Pilusa, a spokesman for Mandla Mandela, said the dispute had nothing to do with women’s rights and that it was “absurd” to suggest that any member of the Mandela family is indigent.
“That is really tantamount to taking from the poor and giving to the rich,” Pilusa said in reference to the provision of legal aid to the family.
Hayes, a salaried employee of the law clinic, did not receive additional payment for representing the family, according to Smailes. She said case costs would be covered by Mandla Mandela because he lost.
On its website, the law clinic says a key objective is to help those who can’t afford private lawyers, “thereby increasing access to justice to the poorest of the poor and creating a greater respect for the rule of law.”