Community advice offices: taking charge in marginalised communities

SOURCE: State of the Nation South Africa 2016: who is in charge?: mandates, accountability and contestations in the South African state
OUTPUT TYPE: Chapter in Monograph
TITLE AUTHOR(S): Y.D.Davids, L.Verwey, A.Bhagat, G.Onuoha
SOURCE EDITOR(S): D.Plaatjies, M.Chitiga-Mabugu, C.Hongoro, T.Meyiwa, M.Nkondo, F.Nyamnjoh
DEPARTMENT: Developmental, Capable and Ethical State (DCES)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 9068
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/9389

If you would like to obtain a copy of this Research Output, please contact Hanlie Baudin at


This chapter explores some aspects of these broader questions in relation to the community advice office (CAO) sector in South Africa. CAOs are small, non profit organisations that offer free basic legal and human-rights information, advice and other socioeconomic services to people who are marginalised through poverty, social circumstances and geographical location. CAOs and paralegals have been part of the social and political landscape in South Africa since the 1930s. The CAOs played a significant role in the fight against apartheid. Over time, the integration of paralegal work to assist communities in need appears to have become core to the perceived value and effectiveness of CAOs. It is 'here' in the CAOs that paralegals contribute the most broadly to the promotion and enforcement of access to justice across South Africa (Dugard & Drage 2013: 12). CAOs deliver their services with limited funding, where necessary by pooling community resources and staff labour and time capacity. Although these services are essential for most communities, South African paralegals occupy an under-formalised and under-recognised institutional space.