Zimbabwe

An introduction to paralegal services in Zimbabwe

There is very little legal assistance available in Zimbabwe.  A number of NGOs which, traditionally, had links with the liberation movements, such as the Zimbabwe Project, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), have become increasingly critical of the ZANU (PF) government.  The civic freedom monitor for Zimbabwe states that the human rights situation has not improved during the lifespan of the Inclusive Government (IG) despite the secondment of a few CSO representatives to top government offices and to new institutions, such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the Zimbabwe Media Commission, among others. These institutions were ineffective, with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission facing operational constraints. During the last ten months of the IG, between October and July 2013, CSOs and their staff members were also repeatedly targeted and a number of directors were charged with operating “illegally,” which essentially means not registered.

Paralegals in Zimbabwe Case Study

The Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) trains Advice Volunteers who live in poor and/or rural communities. Their job is to educate people regarding their rights using pamphlets produced by the LRF and to refer people with legal problems (with legal remedies available) to the second tier of the programme, the local advice centre.

Additional information on paralegals in Zimbabwe

Applicable Constitutional obligations:  Article 31, Article 44, Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms under Part 2.

Applicable Legislation: The Legal Assistance and Representation Act.

Resources: Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) paralegal training manual.

Training required: The Legal Resources Foundation has a training program for paralegals.  The people earmarked for training as paralegals are people who have at least an ‘0 level’ qualification or who are ex-court interpreters and/or officials who are now retired. These paralegals, for logistical purposes, should reside in the areas where they will work.  For the following reasons:

  1. Acceptability by the community they will work in;
  2. Understanding the problems prevalent and existing within the area and community;
  3. Reduced need for transportation, accommodation and other expenses that would be incurred by people working outside their areas of residence, etc.

The training that paralegals receive is higher in content than that of Advice Volunteers. The training is based on a training manual prepared for paralegals. Following recommendations of an evaluation report of the pilot scheme it was decided by LRF that paralegals will be paid.

Advice Volunteers are also trained.  The topics dealt with include:

  1. Accident damages including;
    1. Motor vehicle accidents
    2. Bus accidents
    3. Accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians
  2. Cash and credit sales
  3. The Legal Age of Majority Act
  4. The legal system of Zimbabwe
  5. Marriage and the law
  6. Domestic violence
  7. Women and rape, etc.

 

Once trained and having received their certificates, the Advice Volunteers will go into the areas in which they work and disseminate the information contained in the pamphlets to the grassroots groups with which they work, at the same time distributing pamphlets as a way of reinforcing what they have said.

Organizations: Legal Resources Foundation Zimbabwe, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Musasa Project, The Child Survival Campaign of Zimbabwe, Abammeli Lawyers Network, Basilwizi Trust, Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ), Kulani Trust, Envision, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Centre for Conflict Management and Transformation, ORAP project, Bright Tomorrows.