The law is complex and people require assistance to avoid the risk of having their cases thrown out in the court based on legal technicalities. Through our permanent offices and help desks at magistrates’ courts, we provide legal assistance to the marginalised to enable them to navigate the justice delivery system. We also take legal services directly to the people through mobile legal aid clinics conducted around the rural areas of Zimbabwe. We also assist people virtually through a toll-free helpline operated by our lawyers who offer legal advice free of charge to those calling in.
Each year we assist an average of 16,200 clients through help desks, mobile legal aid clinics and in-office assistance. We also assist self-actors to present cases at courts across the country. These cases range from maintenance claims, bail applications, domestic violence cases, deceased estates disputes, property rights disputes and peace orders.
In the current harsh economic environment, most people lack resources to pursue or defend claims brought against them. When people institute proceedings as self-actors, their lack of knowledge on the procedural or substantive aspects of the law leads to claims being thrown out on technicalities despite their cases being strong on the merits. The Help Desks 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.
We coordinate the Help Desk initiative at Magistrates’ courts around the country, leading the consortium of seven help desk partners: the LRF, Justice for Children, Women and Law in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association, Care at the Core of Humanity and Christian Legal Society.
We make justice accessible to those in hard to reach areas through mobile legal aid clinics. Lawyers are largely concentrated in urban areas. The general low levels of income also mean that people are unlikely to afford the services of a lawyer.
We have 19 offices across the country where people can get legal assistance from our lawyers supported by our paralegals. These cases normally require mediation, drafting of papers, preparing clients for court appearance and legal representation. The paralegals and lawyers explore resolving such cases using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) by bringing the parties together to pursue settlements out of court. Where such intervention does not work, the beneficiaries are assisted with drafting of court papers and empowerment to make court appearances on their own. Legal representation is provided in cases where there is need depending on the complexity of the case and vulnerability of beneficiaries.