Accessing justice is a nightmare in Zimbabwe as it is not only difficult to understand and follow the complex court processes, but also expensive, particularly if one engages a legal practitioner. For many, access to justice is a pie in the sky. The LRF’s legal services have, however, made access to justice a reality for the indigent, regardless of gender, cultural beliefs or political orientation.
To say people flock to the LRF offices for free legal aid is an understatement; last year alone, 9,474 people came to the organisation to seek legal assistance. As is the norm, the LRF did not disappoint as it assisted by drafting legal documents, offering legal advice and through Alternative Dispute Resolution. The use of less expensive methods to resolve cases makes LRF legal services more efficient and relevant, subsequently enabling more people to be assisted with fewer resources and within a shorter time frame.
The most prevalent cases people bring involve property rights, estate disputes and gender-based violence. Men tend to bring cases relating to economic rights such as pension disputes, property rights and debt collection whilst women are more concerned with issues of gender-based violence, children’s rights and maintenance.
The LRF’s work is greatly appreciated by stakeholders across the spectrum of communities. An Assistant District Administrator said: “Our people are very poor and not everyone is capable of paying lawyers, so the LRF is closing that gap.”
An Assistant Inspector for the Victim Friendly Unit in Nyanga echoed his sentiments on the importance of the work done by the LRF when he said:“Usually, when LRF closes in December we face challenges of where to refer people, we also face challenges when paralegals are working three days a week because that creates a very huge gap.”
A grateful beneficiary, who had experienced first hand the LRF’s legal servicessummed it up: “When I was referred to your offices by the clerk at the court with the summons, I was hesitant to approach your offices thinking that you charge consultation fees before giving advice. However, the attention I got from your office was overwhelming. Thank you for your professional and friendly advice.”