Coordinators: Theresa Thusi, Khanyi Singh and Fisani Ngcobo. Theresa has been with CCJ since 1999, Fisani since 2002, and Khanyi since 2005.

Tel / Fax: 033 398 0194 (tel / fax)


Area: 648 sq km

Population: 583,223

District: Umgungundlovu Municipal District (the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal)

Communities served: Plessislaer serves KwaPata, Dambuza, eSigodini, Smero, Nhlazatshe, Georgetown, Ashdown, Machibisa, Imbali, France, Sobantu, Caluza, Taylor’s Halt, Kwamncane, Emafakathini, Kwampande, Entembeni, Kwadulela, Sweet Waters, Kwamgwagwa and Kwamtnoqotho

Most common cases: Legal advice, social problems and domestic violence

Description: Plessislaer was the first support centre to be established, in 1997, and is the only centre close to a city, being a few kilometres outside Pietermaritzburg. The area is underdeveloped: Plessislaer Support Centreinfrastructure is badly maintained, water and electricity supplies are unreliable and streets are narrow. Roads, schools, clinics and other services are basic. The area has Edendale Hospital within walking distance, but Pietermaritzburg is difficult for the many unemployed people to reach owing to the cost of transport. 

The support centre is situated at the police station and is surrounded by informal settlements and urban areas. In 2011, the office dealt with 762 cases, with the most common being legal advice (221), domestic violence (191) and social problems (177).

(Above) Plessislaer Support Centre

Theresa Thusi  

Theresa Thusi 

“I love working with the community, helping people who have been victims of emotional abuse and trauma.”

-         Coordinator Theresa Thusi, known to colleagues as 'Mother Theresa'

How long have you worked for CCJ?

Since 1999

What led you to work for CCJ?

I love working with the community, helping people who have been victims of emotional abuse and trauma.

What would you say are the biggest challenges facing people in your area?

They are domestic violence and child custody

Have you had a case when you relied on traditional customs?

As a black African woman we cannot run away from traditional customs. We refer clients who want to use customary laws to traditional courts. I feel traditional methods such as compensation are appropriate for minor crimes.

Keri Ann Rushing, a Law intern from the United States, observed Theresa at work and later wrote this about her:

"She is such a smart, strong, caring, loving and generous woman. Many of the cases that she encounters in her work are experiences that I may never have in my entire life and that would be hard for me to face on a daily basis. She is committed to working hard and serving her community at whatever emotional costs she may have to bear."

Who is your role model?

My boss Winnie Kubayi. She’s more than an employer - she’s my sister, mother, everything. She supports and respects us.

Are there any laws that would like to see changed?

I would stop the child support grant because children get pregnant in order to get the R250 a month. They abuse the grant by not spending it on the child. Also, when they try to have the baby they sometimes get infected with HIV.

Can you describe one of the most satisfying cases you have dealt with?

There was a dispute between parents because the father was not supporting their child. I called them both in for mediation. At first the man was reluctant. I told them about the Maintenance Act and that both parents have an obligation to support the child, and if only one is working then the burden is on that person. He agreed to pay R1000 a month, and he still pays it today to my office, where the mother collects it.

Have you noticed any changes in attitudes among people in your time at Plessislaer?

Yes, the men have changed their attitudes. They support their wives more. Some of them come and thank me for the work I have done for them explaining the law.Inside Plessislaer Support Centre

Are there any particular challenges you have in your work?

It is a lack of resources: we need a photocopier, fax, telephone and computer to help us with our work. We also have problems with transport as we have to ask the police to assist us.

What advice would you give children growing up in Plessislaer?

I would tell them that education is the key to success. Also they should abstain from sex, and if they have sex they should use a condom.

Khanyi Singh

Khanyi Singh

How long have you worked for CCJ?

Since 2005

What led you to become a support centre coordinator?

It was a love of the community and outreach work, and being a people person.

What are the most common cases that your clients come to you with?

They are legal advice about custody and getting documents for Home Affairs, and social problems such as juvenile delinquency and running away from home.

Is there any law you would like to change?

I would make the old age pension eligibility 70 instead of 62. This is because as soon as men get the pension their behaviour changes: they drink, have love affairs, verbally abuse their wives and only think of themselves.

What role do traditional customs play in your work?

We work with traditional stakeholders, and, if clients choose, we advise them to follow the customs of lobola and paying damages.

Would you say people’s attitudes and behaviour are starting to change?

“Some clients come back after mediation in cases of domestic violence and tell us that there is now peace at home."  

- Coordinator Khanyi Singh


Yes. Some clients come back after mediation in cases of domestic violence and tell us that there is now peace at home.

Who are your role models?

My role model is Theresa Thusi my colleague. She is very supportive and I have learned a lot from her, and from Zandile Khanyile at New Hanover.

Can you describe a case that you found particularly rewarding or difficult?

I helped a woman get R280, 000 in a divorce, and R30,000 in maintenance from the same husband. Her attorney couldn’t get the money for her, but I managed to.

There was another case where a man raped his wife and she fell pregnant. When the daughter from this marriage was about fourteen he also raped her, his granddaughter. He used to kidnap her and take her to shebeens. The wife came to our office and we issued a protection order and referred her to the police. I contacted a local newspaper ‘Ilanga’ and they published the story, creating some pressure.

The police arrested the man and released him on R900 bail. I was angry. Meanwhile the girl-child, his daughter, became pregnant by another man, and the father assaulted this boyfriend. The wife wouldn’t sign the protection order against the husband, but I worked with the police to get it implemented, and he was arrested again for breaking the order and going into an area he was not allowed in. Finally he was sentenced for 17 years – ten for the rape of the mother, five for incest, and two for assault. I had a trauma. For what he did that is nothing. With parole he could be out in ten to twelve years.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in your work?

We need a ramp for disabled clients and resources like a computer, photocopier, fax and transport.

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