About Us

Friends of the LRC is a §501(c)(3) charitable organization based in Washington, D.C., which has supported the Legal Resources Centre of South Africa since 1979.

Our Mission

Established in 1979, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) is South Africa’s largest and oldest public interest, human rights law clinic. The LRC uses the law as an instrument of justice to help vulnerable and marginalized people, including the poor, homeless, and landless.

The Friends of the Legal Resources Centre of South Africa (FoLRC) assists the LRC financially, contributes to its work through joint initiatives, and helps publicize its accomplishments in the United States and globally.

American support of the LRC continues to be crucial to the LRC as it promotes development, democracy, and equality throughout South Africa.
  • Working through litigation, advocacy, and training to ensure an open and democratic society
  • Providing free legal services for the poor, homeless, and landless people and communities of South Africa
  • Promoting the right to a healthy environment for all, including the vulnerable and disadvantaged
  • Realizing the Constitutional right of children in South Africa to a basic education
  • Ensuring the delivery of housing, potable water, sanitation, electricity, and other basic services, particularly to large communities
  • Promoting gender and racial equality and opposing all forms of unfair discrimination
  • Enabling the right of peaceful protest
  • Promoting the rights of all those who live in South Africa, including refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants

For the last three decades the LRC has been the most important public interest litigation organisation in South Africa … the LRC has championed and defended the poor, marginalised and vulnerable in pursuit of life, dignity and equality of all.

Zackie Achmat

Founder of the Treatment Action Campaign

The Legal Resources Centre is truly a beacon of light in a very dark world.

Loretta Lynch

83rd Attorney General of the United States

So much of what we count on as the foundational principles of democracy turns entirely on the willingness of someone somewhere to stand up in court and give those principles life. And that is what the LRC has been about.

Deval Patrick

71st Governor of Massachusetts

The [Legal Resources] Centre helped to keep alive the ideal of justice through the rule of law, a fundamental element of democracy. . . In doing so it helps to ensure that the ideals inscribed in our Constitution will become real in the lives of all South Africans.

Nelson Mandela

September 1996

The LRC is a bulwark of protection for the most needy and it is a continued challenge to the excesses of bad bureaucracy, corruption, and malpractice in the government. Holding the feet of the government to fire is a critical thing to do and the LRC has been in the leadership of that.

Harvey P. Dale

University Professor of Philanthropy and the Law at New York University

Early LRC History

When the LRC first opened its doors in 1979, its founders – Arthur Chaskalson, Geoff Budlender, and Felicia Kentridge – planned to exploit spaces within the framework of existing apartheid laws where fundamental rights of the common law could still be asserted and defended, and they attempted to extend the boundaries of such spaces as much as possible. 

By concentrating their efforts on precedent-setting test cases that challenged the apartheid laws, they were able to achieve greater success than they thought possible.  

During these early years, LRC lawyers challenged the most oppressive aspects of apartheid – including the pass laws, forced removals, and unlawful detentions – through the South African courts, creating the basis for respect for the rule of law among the most marginalized members of South African society.

“ . . . [I]t was a system of discrimination, brutal repression, all mediated through the law.  It couldn’t be done unless there was a law which said it could be done. .  .The judges were independent in the sense that they didn’t take instructions from government. They were all white. They were almost all male. They almost all carried with them the prejudices of white males in South Africa. Yet they weren’t taking instructions. They wouldn’t get a phone call from a cabinet minister telling them to decide a case in a particular way and they would have been offended if they had received it. But they didn’t need it in most cases. Yet there was a measure of intellectual honesty in the system and so it was possible to say to a judge, actually, this is unlawful. Never mind the politics, this is unlawful. It is not consistent with the law. And what we were interested in doing is saying ok, if that premise is correct, if we are right in our assumptions that the courts will operate in a relatively intellectually honest way, are there spaces in the law which make it possible to take on and challenge elements of apartheid systematically, which will create other consequences?” – Geoff Budlender, interviewed by Charlayne Hunter-Gault in Cape Town, February 2006

The LRC was established in 1979 with the financial support of three American foundations – the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

When four distinguished Americans – Lloyd Cutler, Erwin Griswold, Louis Loss, and Bernard Segal – learned that Arthur Chaskalson, Geoff Budlender, and Felicia Kentridge intended, during the height of apartheid, to establish what would become the LRC, they decided to establish a U.S. charitable organization, the Southern Africa Legal Services and Legal Education Project (now called Friends of the Legal Resources Centre), hopeful that the FoLRC might offer some level of protection to LRC lawyers and staff during those dangerous days.