LAW FOR ALL writing competition – an interview with Jackie Nagtegaal

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LAW FOR ALL, a company dedicated to fighting for equality and justice, calls on South Africa’s creative minds and wordsmiths to enter a competition to help imagine a future world where everyone has access to justice and legal recourse. The winner will walk away with a R10 000 cash prize. Read more about the competition here.

Naomi Meyer spoke to futurist and lawyer Jackie Nagtegaal about the competition.

Jackie Nagtegaal (photo: provided)

Jackie, please would you tell us about LAW FOR ALL’s writing competition?

At LAW FOR ALL, we believe in a future where the law works for everyone. This has been the core of our company since 1993. Unfortunately, the justice gap is widening, and we see so many people without legal help.

The law is often discussed by experts and policymakers, but we believe that the voice of artists could aid us in designing a new justice system by offering us stories of preferable futures. We believe that the creative voice often speaks to a deeper level, which might give answers to systemic issues that prevail in the justice system.

We also believe that people need a vision to make the future a reality. If we have new stories of the future, it becomes easier to build that future. We are looking for these stories of a future where the justice system delivers, so that we can share these visions and collectively work to make justice a reality.

Should the entries be in English, or would you also accept entries in other South African languages?

They may be in any official African language, but an English translation has to accompany it.

I fully agree with the fact that we live in an unequal society, and it is a brilliant idea to create stories of hope. But, from a literary perspective, is a happy story an interesting story? Please elaborate.

A happy story presents an ideal. A happy story becomes a beacon that beckons us forward – it asks us to make it real. That said, though, unhappy stories are also used to show us what will happen if nothing changes. If we look at the unmet justice needs – what happens if that persists? Telling that story shows us the road we are on; it shows us the future we do not want, and it could help to induce change.

These stories, positive or negative, become scenarios. At LAW FOR ALL, we prefer the positive stories, as we believe that hope is a powerful tool for change.

Talking about fiction, do you think that an equal South African society is a real possibility? If so, what should happen for this to become a reality?

Anything is possible, in my mind. I don’t think it is a fiction, but an ideal we strive for. I think that the world – and our country, in particular – is incredibly complex, and many of the solutions we try are linear and short-term approaches. South Africa has great depths of inequality, mountains of trauma and too many historical legacies that persist in haunting us. To move forward, we have to understand them and answer them with real transformative change and not plasters of promise.

Without writing a story per se: if you looked around and you could change one aspect of the law to create a better society for all, what would you change? 

I would allow for ABS (alternative business structures), allowing non-lawyers to own legal companies to spearhead innovation and break down the elitism that prevails in the legal fraternity. With a greater influx of talent and skills, justice innovation blooms.

I would redesign the justice budget to allow for universal legal care through a national legal insurance system instead of legal aid. Through this, all South Africans would have access to legal services in order to enact and enforce their rights. Being legally empowered gives a nation a sense of agency and confidence to bring about the changes it would like.

The law acts like a scaffold that keeps the world standing. Having access to it is the greatest enabler to better your life and your society.

Visit LAW FOR ALL’s website here:

Also read:

Competition: Write the future, right the wrongs

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