The Legal Resources Foundation, with the support of the EU under the Zimbabwe Justice Sector Programme, is offering legal training to traditional leaders with the aim of improving access to justice for rural communities in Zimbabwe, particularly those who are marginalised and vulnerable. The training, which is being conducted in collaboration with the Council of Chiefs and the Judicial Service Commission, is part of the EU programme which was officially launched on Tuesday 30 January 2018 in Harare.

Customary law courts presided over by traditional leaders offer an informal, inexpensive means of accessing justice. Although procedures in these courts are not as complex as those in the higher courts and they are much easier to access as they are close to the people, the public lacks confidence in traditional courts because some of those who preside over them lack the skills and knowledge on how to apply the law correctly in the cases they preside over. As a result, some people end up presenting their cases in the magistrates’ courts but then find they cannot pursue their claims to finality due to complexity of procedures and financial constraints

As such, the EU supported programme sits squarely with the vision of the LRF of a Zimbabwe where human rights are upheld and all people have access to justice. It represents a continuation and consolidation of the work the LRF has been doing for over three decades across the country in assisting the marginalized and vulnerable.

The programme also addresses concerns around human rights, gender equality and the rights of vulnerable groups. Through the EU support, training on gender and human rights is being extended to the institution of traditional leaders to enable them to preside over cases and exercise their jurisdiction using gender sensitive approaches and also taking into account the need to respect and promote human rights.

The recognition by the European Union of the importance of strengthening the Customary Law and Local Courts and their overall support to our justice system is to be applauded. The support will go a long way in improving access to justice to the beneficiaries who are primarily the rural and marginalised people of Zimbabwe who often time face insurmountable challenges in accessing justice.

The LRF will continue to promote access to justice and human rights in Zimbabwe through legal assistance, legal education, advocacy and strengthening the justice delivery system.