OFFERING LEGAL SERVICES AND RESPONDING TO HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
The centres received numerous testimonials attesting to the good work the organisation has done to benefit the community.
“Hama kune bato rine rudo zvekuti hama dzangu hadzina rudo serwandakapiwa neveLegal Resources Foundation. Ava vanhu havana muripo wavanoda asi vane rudo. Havana huori… (Friends there is an organization with so much love, even my own relatives and friends have not got such love, as the love that I was shown by the organization. These people give help for free they don’t even make you pay anything. Furthermore they are not corrupt…)”
“I want to thank you for the work that you did for me free of charge. Without your help it was difficult for me. Lawyers in private practice charge a lot of cash. Keep up the good work!”
Through the organisational network of 25 offices in nine provinces in Zimbabwe; five provincial centres, five suburban (three part time) and 15 legal advice centres, the LRF facilitates people’s access to justice. This is crucial since the state continues to be unable to offer substantive legal aid and the LRF is often the only resource for people who need legal assistance. The LRF offices are all staffed by trained paralegals whose work is supported and monitored by qualified lawyers. They offer advice and counsel, draft court papers on behalf of clients and employ alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in resolving disputes where possible. In more complex matters the centre lawyers represent the clients in court
- Our client, a 73 year old widow, RJ, had two cattle attached by the Messenger of Court in execution of a judgment against her son who had been sued in that court by his ex wife, JC. Our client had indicated to the Messenger of Court that the cattle were her personal property but she was incorrectly told that she had to pay for her son’s debts. We assisted RJ with filing court papers and she obtained judgment for the return of her cattle.
Elderly widows have become easy targets for certain community leaders in terms of deprivation of property. There is need for legal recourse in such instances.
- A client approached the LRF office seeking legal advice and assistance on how to obtain a protection order as she was being subjected to acts of domestic violence. She was being forced to have unprotected sexual intercourse despite knowing he was HIV positive and on antiretroviral drugs. The client had earlier sought police assistance and was referred to our office for assistance. Her boyfriend had chosen to punish her by force-marching her to a river where she was assaulted. He attempted to stab her with a knife and she sustained a cut on her wrists and arms whilst trying to wrestle away from him. The police were called to The case highlights our role in assisting victims of gender based violence. Furthermore it brings out the good working relationship that exists between the organisation and the intervene and criminal charges were filed against him for deliberate transmission of HIV.
Police who in this case referred the client to our offices for assistance.
- Our client was a participant at one of our workshops. She is a young widow and was being evicted from the matrimonial home she inherited from her late husband. The relatives are not prepared to accept her since she refused to be inherited. The LRF paralegal, together with the chief, approached the family members and a round table conference was held. The law was explained to both parties and client is now living happily at her home. The client’s right to property was thereby restored.
The case highlights the role of our legal education programme in empowering women to assert their rights.
ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN
This project is delivered through both the government [the Legal Aid Directorate (LAD) in the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs] and NGOs, (in this case the LRF) and coordinated by the Department of Social Services, with technical assistance from UNICEF.
A total of 8,749 children were reached within this first year of the project. 180 cases involving children were taken to court by LRF lawyers and 122 of these were successfully closed. It is important to note that of the 122 cases represented in court and successfully closed 47 such cases were criminal juvenile cases.
The focus of the LRF’s work with prisons is remand prisoners where individuals can be subjected to unreasonably extended periods without being brought before the courts – looking primarily at cases that affect women, children and those requiring psychiatric or medical assessment
In one case, an incarcerated juvenile was disowned by his parents who feared that if they took him home they would risk being arrested if they failed to bring him to court when required. They argued that the child often ran away to the streets and they would be unable to force him to come to court when required. This case illustrates the need to advocate for institutions that can hold child offenders neglected by their parents as sending them to prison will do them more harm than good.