BY BRENNA MATENDERE
A LEGAL aid clinic officially opened by European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen on Tuesday at Midlands State University, will offer free services to needy people in the province.
The EU ambassador said the setting up of the centre was after a realisation that the majority of people could not afford legal fees.
“In these difficult economic conditions, more people than before are finding it difficult to afford legal representation. This in turn negatively impacts on the protection of several of their constitutional rights, such as children’s rights, political rights, the right to fair trial and so forth,” Olkkonen said.
“We commend the university (MSU) for harnessing the potential of the enthusiastic and eager to learn law students with support of their lecturers to provide access to justice for the marginalised.”
The clinic will see students enrol for law studies and in turn provide free services to underprivileged members of society.
The project was funded by the EU and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
Justice Alfred Mavedzenge, the ICJ legal adviser, said more universities in the country should have similar centres.
“Access to justice is a fundamental tenet of the rule of law and the ICJ believes universities, particularly law faculties have an important role to play in improving access to justice for vulnerable members of the community,” he said.
“The ICJ believes university legal clinics provide a unique platform for vulnerable groups to access otherwise expensive legal services.”
A 2019 survey conducted by the Mass Public Opinion Institute revealed that only 10% of court users surveyed were familiar with court processes and 11% could afford to hire lawyers.
Gift Manyatera, dean of the law faculty, said the university would assist marginalised members of society who require the services of lawyers.