‘Marginalised communities to access justice’

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BY PRECIOUS CHIDA

A GROUPING of lawyers working to improve access to justice in Zimbabwe, Legal Resource Foundation (LRF) said it has stepped up efforts to have paralegal services formalised to allow rural communities to access justice.
LRF executive director, Lucia Masukazanhi revealed this early this week on the sidelines of a workshop on transparency and accountability for sustainable development organised by a German International company, GIZ in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commissions (Zacc).

Masukazanhi said marginalised communities do not have the information as to what to expect in court and how to handle any justice issue which makes paralegals’ operation vital to rural areas. “People in the rural areas encounter challenges in accessing justice due to various reasons, but the main barriers are the costs, complexity of the procedure and the law itself and the lack of information and knowledge about the law,” Masukazanhi said.

“In as much as we have legal practitioners providing legal assistance certain individuals find it difficult to access justice because they might not afford to pay the fees prescribed by legal practitioners and definitely no one would open a law firm in the rural areas where there is no clientele so this gap is filled by legal aids who are paralegals.”

Masukazanhi said although there were only a few in existence in Zimbabwe, there was need to formalise the initiative and also have institutions that will train the paralegals.

“There is a gap as far as access to justice is concerned and the workshop focused on the issue of recognition of paralegals in our bid to enhance access to justice for the marginalised and vulnerable groups. Someone has to give them advice and assistance in terms of the steps that they ought to take and what to expect in court, hence just like Tanzania and other African countries, we need to have institutions that provide training for them,” she said.

Midlands State University is so far the only institution that is offering training for paralegals.

Meanwhile, Zacc has adopted the multi-agency response to corruption which will see different stakeholders involved in fighting corruption working together immediately after the matter has been reported.

Zacc spokesperson John Makamure said they had proposed a robust implementation and monitoring programme of the national anti-corruption strategy which will also see them engage marginalised communities.