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Activist and advocate - Tlale draws inspiration from inequalities

By Mothusi Masemola | 2017-07-12 13:17:39.0

Apart from cycling and charitable work Tefo Tlale has his hands full with his legal practice. Photo supplied

Apart from cycling and charitable work, 27-year-old Tefo Tlale has his hands full with his legal practice. Tlale's passion for helping others has seen him involved with the Wits Law Clinic (WLC) from his varsity years.

His involvement resulted in important programmes being launched during his studies as a law student.

"Although I was privileged in that I had financial resources, I became a member of WLC because I saw the extreme disparities," he said.

"In one lecture room there was a son of a top executive and a son of a domestic worker. You would have one row of students typing their notes on a MacBook, while on the next row there would be students frantically writing their notes on an exam pad.

"I saw people who had the same potential as myself being excluded because they had no accommodation or textbooks," Tlale said.

This is why he decided to change the status quo.

They initially started a programme that facilitated the lending of about 50 textbooks through publisher Juta, on condition that they would be returned by the students after the semester finished.

"Through fund-raising programmes we also started a printing fund where students could make copies of cases, because the reality is that studying law requires a lot of resources," he said.

Student activism opened more doors for Tlale's career development.

"I got the opportunity to be a legal officer and to act as a senior legal officer at the Human Rights Commission. This was through the contacts gained through WLC," he said.

His law practice, Tefo Tlale's Chambers, operates from the Johannesburg CBD.

"I make my money through court appearances, preparing documents like affidavits, and conducting interviews with witnesses," he said. "Being an advocate is like being a sole proprietor - you make your own income.

"I did not send my application to court for admission as an attorney because once you are admitted as an attorney you cannot be admitted as an advocate," Tlale said.

"I completed two years of articles, I did part-time law school and passed all my boards [exams].

"I had to sell my car after articles so that I could buy office furniture, have a secretary, and basically start my practice.

"At the moment we rely on business from attorneys who are obliged to pay us only after 90 days. My secretary is a single mom so I need to make sure she is fine, even if I [have to make a] sacrifice.

Tlale graduated with an LLB in 2013 from Wits University. He comes from a family of four.

He served his articles at Bowman Gilfillan and was admitted as an advocate last April.

He opened his practice two months after he was admitted.