Habitat for Humanity
“3 Law Firms, 3 Families, 3 Houses and 1 Community”
A firm commitment to social responsibility and a shared vision of making a marked difference to underprivileged families drew three legal firms together in 2007. Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes (STBB), Spoor & Fisher and Werksmans Attorneys, collectively dubbed the Gauteng Legal Community, rallied with Habitat for Humanity South Africa, which falls under the umbrella of the international non-profit housing organization and KAVOSHS (Katlehong South Vosloorus Self-Help Housing Scheme) to build three homes for three deserving families in Katlehong, Ekhuruleni. This initiative was the first of its kind in the legal fraternity, was a huge success and the resonating gratification felt by all participants, has culminated in an annual community build and upliftment project by the participating firms.
The second Gauteng Legal Community house build occurs over the weekends of 7– 9h March 2008 and 15-16th March 2008. During this five day period three new homes will be built in Kathlehong for the Mokhatla, Diphare and Mtywina families.
STBB, a leader in Property and Commercial Law throughout South Africa, and with extensive international ties, will build a house for the Diphare family comprising Mr. Simon Diphare, his wife, their four sons and an extended family of three. Mr. Diphare and his wife, both unemployed, sell fruits and vegetables to generate income for the family. Mr. Diphare has been living in Katlehong for 11 years. Before Mr. Diphare came to Katlehong, he lived in Phake Location where he rented a house for nine years and eight months. The reason for moving from Phake to Katlehong is because he wants his own house. His plans for the future are to find employment in order to support his family and to see his small business of selling fruits and vegetables grow. His dreams for the children are to see them working hard and have a better life.
Spoor & Fisher, a specialist Intellectual Property law firm and a recognized leader in the fields of patent, trademark, copyright and design law in South Africa and the rest of Africa, will build a house for Sizwe Mtywina, his wife and five children, four daughters and one son. Mr. Mtywina came to Gauteng in 1969 from Eastern Cape (Umtata) in a quest for a better life. Today, however, he is unemployed and depends on a grant. The first-born daughter is working; three daughters are unemployed, and together with his wife, are still in the Eastern Cape. The last-born son is in grade 10 and is staying with him. Before Mr. Mtywina moved to Katlehong, he was staying in Mandela location. When the South African government bought a site in Katlehong they moved half of the people from Mandela location, including Mr. Mtywina. He has been staying in Katlehong since 1994. Mr. Mtywina said, ‘I don’t have plans for the future, I am unemployed so how will I achieve my plans if there is no source of income to generate money’. Mr. Mtywina stated that his children’s dreams would be to be employed so that they can support themselves and the whole family. His son’s dream is to complete his studies.
Werksmans Attorneys, one of South Africa’s leading corporate and commercial law firm, focusing on the business needs of major multi-national and South African businesses such as banks and financial institutions, government institutions, private corporations and entrepreneurs, will build a house for Mr Samuel Mokhatla, his wife and seven children. Mr. Mokhatla is currently employed by the GRISO Company, while his wife is unemployed. Before he came to Katlehong Mr. Mokhatla lived in Phadima, renting rooms from time to time. Mr. Mokhatla’s plans for the future is to have a house for his family and not be afraid to point it when people ask where he lives. For his children, he wants those who are at school to finish their studies and be vigilant about the threat of HIV/AIDS and continue to have respect for the elderly people.
Thus, this coalition between the Gauteng Legal Community, Habitat for Humanity South Africa and KAVOSHS is affording three families a chance for a better quality of life and addressing the housing shortage in South Africa’s poor communities. The original idea was raised by the staff of Spoor & Fisher in 2006 with a view to expanding its social commitment program. This was given the full support by the firm’s management which had decided to partner with Habitat for Humanity South Africa to build a house for a low income family.
The first Spoor & Fisher build took place in January 2007 with a home for Ms Alice Kutu, a widow and her family in Katlehong. Five days are allotted to build the house and over this period, a maximum of 15 staff members per day volunteered their time, labour and provided an endless supply of enthusiasm to help build the Kutu family house. This was achieved under the supervision of skilled builders from Habitat for Humanity South Africa, who also supplied the building materials, as well as KAVOSHS. The end result was a two bedroom house, with a bathroom, kitchen living area, garden and a host of household goods and clothing for the Kutu family. Spoor & Fisher’s long term goal was to expand the program into an annual event, where stakeholders in the legal community will be challenged to participate annually.
The two law firms, STBB and Werksmans Attorneys, rose to the occasion and accepted the challenge. In August 2007 three homes were built for the Letiya, Nyathi and Sibiya families. Besides their time and labour, the staff of these firms have also generously donated clothes, curtains, household items, foodstuffs, garden accessories, money and just about anything else that they believed would be use to these families.
Mayford Seeds, a local seed production company which also produces vegetable, forage, turf and flower seed, and specialises in vegetable breeding programs and specialised products for the home garden industry, has generously donated in the past and will do so again, for the second Gauteng Legal Community house build, seeds and plants for the gardens of all the beneficiary families.
Come 16 March 2008, a total of 7 houses would have been sponsored and built in Gauteng for the community by the legal fraternity.
Though there are currently three firms who have embraced and made a commitment to this annual legal community build, other firms have expressed an interest in this initiative and have indicated that they would like participate in the future. The ultimate goal is to obtain the commitment and participation of as many stakeholders in the legal firms as possible.