Leslie Downie BA LLB Hons (English) MPhil (Geomatics) achieved her MPhil in the EBE faculty in 2015, with distinction. The thesis was supervised by Jenny Whittal in the Geomatics Division and Amanda Barratt in the Law Faculty. Leslie recently converted the material into a textbook published by Juta, entitled Pro-Poor Legal Practice: Household Rights and Subsidised Housing in South Africa. The book develops a methodology for adding legal weight to informal land agreements and various universities are currently discussing its potential for use in transformed curricula.
Pro-Poor Legal Practice grapples with how people’s private lives and informal practices intersect with the legal and cadastral land information system. It argues that in Africa, mapping of ‘people-belonging-to-land’ should be given equal weight to mapping of ‘land-belonging-to-people’. While the book is written primarily for pro-poor lawyers, it is of interest to engineering consulting firms and surveyors dealing with subsidised housing developments.
Leslie is currently driving a legal specialisation in land tenure information systems with Michalsons Attorneys in Cape Town. She feels the geomatics profession’s scientific, outcome-based approach is critical to extend lawyers’ understanding of informality and land tenure. It is also her view that surveyors have a much better understanding of informal land practices, due to their much greater direct exposure to the people and issues involved. Amongst the suggestions she is making to universities, is that EBE faculties should be offering service courses to law students that cover their experience of informality and how it affects off-register and extra-legal land practices.
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