Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Stories of Advocacy: Speaking out

By Trudie Broekmann

I’m a commercial attorney, because I like reading and writing and am interested in people’s businesses, but more so, because I enjoy taking a stand.  After ten years or so of commercial practice, God put a gnawing desire in me to use these skills for something more meaningful than commercial transactions. In a degree of desperation because of the restlessness in my heart, I took two weeks out and volunteered at Common Good.

I also confided in several Christian friends and one of these friends put me in touch with John Smyth, the director of the Justice Alliance, a non-governmental organisation which promotes justice from a Christian perspective through lobbying and Constitutional litigation. John is a veteran Christian who was a Queen’s Counsel (senior advocate) and acting judge in the UK before changing direction completely. He and his wife worked for many years running Christian camps for teenagers in Zimbabwe. They are now based in Cape Town and run the Justice Alliance with the support of a board composed of experienced lawyers and other wise decision-makers.  He’s an amazing example of how a Christian can use his intelligence and his professional training to strategically advance Kingdom principles.

I reduced my working hours at the law firm where I was employed and started volunteering with Justice Alliance. In the past three years, it has been thoroughly exciting to have been involved in the following cases:

  • Taking on government and developers who fail to give title deeds to the vulnerable people who are granted RDP housing (Without a title deed they don’t own the property and  are left to deal with a legal quagmire)
  • Claiming damages for a young man who was incarcerated in Pollsmoor prison without trial and without schooling from the age of 14 to the age of 17
  • Lobbying for the passing of a law that would make it impossible for children to access porn on their cellphones
  • Helping an old lady from Langa get ownership of the house she has been renting from the City of Cape Town for decades (The City is undecided about where to subdivide her plot and so have dragged their feet for 14 years)
  • Successfully challenging the unconstitutional reappointment of the Chief Justice by the President in the Constitutional Court
  • Joining a case in the Constitutional Court in support of the State where a group of magazine editors want to escape regulation of sexual and offensive content in their magazines
  • Joining a case in support of the State to defend a law which deters adolescents from engaging in sex or being sexually exploited by other children
  • Assisting a group of 800 psychologists who are being prevented from treating their existing clients by new regulations which unfairly benefit one category of psychologists over the others
  • We are strategising about how to best help refugees who are faced with institutionalised corruption and exploitation

If you would like to contribute to Justice Alliance’s work, you can do so by:

  • Volunteering your time and expertise on a long-term or short-term basis
  • Joining our prayer team 13:15-14:00 each Wednesday at Gunstons Attorneys in Steenberg Office Park , Tokai
  • Making a donation (details on http://www.justicealliance.co.za/info.html)
  • Joining the Justice Forum meetings where we discuss legal topics from a Christian perspective – contact ian@gunstons.com

The restlessness in my heart has gone away, and been replaced with overflowing joy at being able to partner with God to make South Africa a better place.

– Trudie is an experienced commercial and corporate attorney. She is a member of the Common Ground InnerCity congregation.

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2 thoughts on “Stories of Advocacy: Speaking out

  1. Sonja Larsen on said:

    Hi Trudie, the work you are involved in, and your passion for it is pretty inspiring. I’d like to know more about what you’re doing and why 🙂
    Is it really worth standing up for issues of justice? Why

  2. Trudie on said:

    Hi Sonja
    Thanks! A lot of what we do is thinking about issues, and then coordinating a team of legal professionals who usually work for free to take the matter to court, or we meet with or write to decision-makers.
    It’s worthwhile standing up for justice because not doing it is unthinkable. It would mean we have no compassion for people who are being oppressed one way or another. Also, whether or not it changes government policy or practice, it is important to add our justice-focused perspective to the other voices which are informing decisonmakers’ thinking, because we have the benefit of God’s wisdom on so many topics, and it would be wrong not to allow that to impact our world. Does that make sense to you? In practice it’s a less ‘heavy’ thing than it sounds- one just does the usual things lawyers aand lobbyists do.

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