We call upon the government to adequately fund the Legal Aid Board so that their lawyers could be placed in all districts to carry out legal representation more efficiently and in turn decongest prisons, says Prisons Care and Counselling Association (PRISCCA) executive director Godfrey Malembeka.
Dr Malembeka said in an interview that the Legal Aid Board had been doing its best to do their work but that due to inadequate funding it was faced with challenges to efficiently carryout their work.
He called on the Law Association of Zambia to review its proborno initiative.
“The Legal Aid Board has been trying their level best to do their work but the funding has been inadequate. We want Government to fund the legal aid board adequately so that probably their lawyers could be placed in all districts.
“We have Legal Aid Board lawyers in all provinces and they are working extremely hard. I know them, they even help us with our clients’ but major law firms, law firms which are along the line of rail are rarely found in Eastern or North- Western, Muchinga and Luapula provinces,” Dr Malembeka said.
He said Zambia continued to be one of the most expensive countries in Africa when it came to legal representation.
Dr Malembeka said lawyers were important when it came to discharging non-custodial, suspended and community sentences and that they would help prisoners with minor cases hence decongest prisons.
“PRISCCA works with LAZ; we are affiliated to the Human rights committee of LAZ. Yes, we want them to review the proborno to make it effective so that poor people can benefit and this initiative will help decongest our prison facilities, “he said.
Dr Malembeka said he was delighted that the Constitutional Court president had commented on the high legal fees currently being charged by lawyers.
“I am very thankful that the president has seen what we have been talking about,” he said.
Dr Malembeka said there was need for decentralisation of the criminal justice system and make judges to be residents of areas unlike for them to be travelling twice or three times a month.
There have been numerous calls for affordable legal representation and the latest voice is that of the Constitutional Court president, Justice Hilda Chibomba.
“If our legal fees are affordable, most of our people would be enabled to access justice and not only the affluent. In this way we shall dispel the myth that justice is only for the rich.
One way would be to employ alternative ways of resolving disputes quickly, cheaply and simply,” Ms Justice Chibomba said.
Ms Justice Chibomba was speaking in Livingstone at AVANI Victoria Falls in a speech read for her by Supreme Court Judge Mumba Malila during the LAZ annual conference.