The law is complex and people need advice and assistance if they are to use the formal justice system. The LRF, through its permanent offices and help desks at magistrates' courts, provides legal assistance to the marginalised to enable them to navigate the justice delivery system. The LRF also takes legal services directly to the people through mobile legal aid clinics moving around the rural areas. There is a toll-free help line, operated by LRF lawyers who offer legal advice free of charge to those calling in.
Each year The LRF assists an average of 2,866 self-actors to present cases at courts across the country. These ranged through maintenance claims, bail applications, domestic violence, deceased estates disputes, property rights disputes and peace orders. 2,144 of the cases presented by self-actors were reported as successfully resolved.
The following services are offered by LRF:
The LRF has continued to coordinate the Help Desk initiative at magistrates’ courts around the country, leading the consortium of the five help desk partners: the LRF, Justice for Children, Women and Law in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association. In the current harsh economic environment, the average citizen lacks resources to pursue or defend claims brought against them. When people do institute proceedings as self-actors, their ignorance of the procedural or substantive aspects of the law leads to claims being thrown out on technicalities despite their case being strong on the merits. The Help Desks have been able to provide court users with assistance at the time of their immediate need and equip self-actors with legal advice on how to present their cases within the requirements set out in the rules of court.
Mobile Legal Aid Clinics
The LRF has increasingly taken legal services to the community through mobile legal aid clinics. Lawyers are largely concentrated in urban areas. The Legal Aid Directorate is expanding its offices but these too are in urban areas so that rural communities have restricted access to services. The general low levels of income also mean that people are unlikely to be able to afford the services of a lawyer.