Educating the Community about Consumer Rights a Priority for Law Graduate
Seeing the stress her father suffered after his salary was docked because of the actions of an unscrupulous debt collector and the impact it had on her family’s livelihood motivated Masters of Law graduate, Ms Abongile Swana, to concentrate her research on Emoluments Attachment Orders (EAOs) as a debt collection mechanism and the irregularities observed in them.
‘Seeing unscrupulous debt collectors acting contrary to the requirements of the Magistrate’s Court Act, watching as my father suffered prejudice and lectures on the Law of Sale, Lease and other Credit Agreements in the fourth year of my LLB, contributed to me developing a strong interest in Consumer law and related matters,’ said Swana.
Considering that her research topic was so close to home, Mr Lee Swales’ role as her supervisor was helpful in ensuring that she produced an impartial thesis.
‘It is common cause that a large percentage of South Africa’s population is heavily indebted and has EAOs against their salaries. My research was closely linked to the landmark case of The University of Stellenbosch Legal Aid Clinic and Others v The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Others. This judgment is still yet to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court and will have a significant impact on EAOs. In my thesis, I concluded that despite the irregularities observed in EAOs, they are still an effective debt collection mechanism that should exist and that various safeguards should be put in place to ensure that they operate effectively and fairly,’ she said.
Having emotional ties to her research interest yielded positive results as it inspired Swana to get involved in community outreach. Apart from her spending three months volunteering her services at ProBono.Org’s Consumer Law Clinic working on a variety of cases that dealt with consumer’s rights, Swana also worked as a General Teaching Assistant, where she spent a lot of time at the UKZN Law Clinic which provides free legal assistance to indigent members of the community.
‘Working with the community coupled with my father’s situation and constant encouragement from my supervisor, kept me motivated and passionate about my topic.
‘I also got the opportunity to impart my knowledge and skills to first year students I tutored. I was also fortunate to interact with fourth year students who were studying Clinical Law, Candidate Attorneys and staff members at the Law Clinic. I value these experiences as they ensured that I remain passionate about both my studies and my job,’ said Swana.