Steps to align Legal Aid Act Commences

The Centre for Applied Legal Research (CALR), working in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs (MoJLPA) and UNICEF Zimbabwe, has embarked on stakeholder consultations aimed at aligning the Legal Aid Act with the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

CALR, together with its partners, held a two-day Northern region stakeholder consultation event in Harare from 13 to 14 October 2021. Participants were drawn from diverse organizations that included the government.

The Chairperson of the Legal Directorate, Mr John Nyangombe graced the occasion and offered a policy position in coming up with a revised draft Legal Aid Amendment Bill.

The reformed and aligned Legal Aid Amendment Bill has provisions that seeks to ensure legal aid to the less privileged and vulnerable groups in Zimbabwe, including persons with disabilities, women, children and the elderly.

The Legal Aid Directorate will have regulatory powers to accredit legal aid organizations in Zimbabwe.

Present at the workshop were representatives from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Law Development Commission, MoJLPA, Law Society of Zimbabwe, Human Rights NGO Forum, The Zimbabwe Deaf Trust, Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, Legal Resources Foundation and Justice for Children Trust.

In his presentation, CALR Senior Researcher, Dr James Tsabora explained what alignment of legislation entails and also elaborated on the constitutional provisions which underpin the establishment and operations of the Legal Aid Directorate as well as administrative procedures which stakeholders had to note in their deliberations.

Ms Valerie Zviuya from the Legal Resources Foundation gave an overview of the status of the Legal Aid in Zimbabwe.

A call was made by stakeholders to ensure more visibility of the Legal Aid Directorate across the whole country as well as improved publicity.

Interesting discussions were done on issue to do with vulnerability, scope of paralegals, and accreditation of legal aid providers such as CSOs, who offer legal aid when stakeholders came up with on coming up with a new law which covers legal aid in Zimbabwe.

A stakeholder consultation workshop for the Southern region will be held in Bulawayo from 21 to 22 October in an effort to incorporate views from all regions.