Students from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Wits University have created an app that combines tech and social justice, to empower South Africans when they are dealing with the law.
LegalMate, created by Jed da Silva and Michael de la Hunt, is a free legal information app that lets you know what your legal rights are when dealing with the law in certain situations. The app has categories which explain what your rights are in relation to drugs, protests, or roadblocks, among others.
Last year, the police ministry told Parliament that it had spent R1 billion on wrongful arrest and detention lawsuits between 2009 and 2016. Democratic Alliance MP, Zakhele Mbhele, said during the hearing it was because the training of police recruits was poorly managed and lacked the enforcement of accountability.
De la Hunt, a BA law student at Wits, said he and da Silva realised they didn’t know what to do if they got into trouble with the law. “And then my partner said, why don’t we just make an app.”
They got together with some high school friends and created LegalMate in six months, and launched it on 15 August. De la Hunt said developing the app didn’t cost much because they had help from their friends. “But now, going forward, we would like to find sponsors and work with people to create more awareness of the app and market the app.”
The LegalMate website has a contact option where you can suggest more categories for them to add onto the app. De la Hunt said they will be expanding the number of categories on the app in two weeks. “We’re going to add restraining orders and protection orders and domestic violence,” he said.
Once they have enough funding, de la Hunt said they want to expand the app to make the information more accessible. “We definitely want it to be in as many South African languages as possible. We were thinking of that right [from] development.” He also want to include features like voice notes where people who aren’t literate can listen to the information.
Importantly, the app is not a replacement for legal advice. “It can help you but you must always consult an attorney. It’s just to help you know your rights in certain situations,” said de la Hunt.
You can download LegalMate here.