Gutu launches the Law and Counselling Trust in Zimbabwe

The deputy minister of justice, Obert Gutu on Friday launched the Law and Counselling Trust in Zimbabwe, an organisation that seeks to provide pre-counselling, interim counselling and post counselling services to individuals who come in contact or conflict with the law.

Gutu
Gutu

Gutu said in his opening remarks, “Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is my singular honour to officiate at this unique event, the launch of the Law and Counselling Trust in Zimbabwe (LCTZ). It is unique in the sense that the organisation is the first of its kind. As a lawyer, I can confirm that free Christian legal counselling for all is a critical service that has been missing in our justice delivery system.

Counselling is a concept that has existed for a long time and is not alien to our culture as Africans. In most communities there has always been a deeply embedded conviction that under proper conditions people can help others with their problems. However unprecedented economic and social changes have over the years changed the way in which we manage our lives. Therefore, the need for counselling has become paramount in order to promote the well being of our society.

Your concept note clearly spells out your objectives, key among them being “to provide pre-counselling, interim counselling and post counselling services to individuals who come in contact or conflict with the law. I will share with you an experience from my days in private practice. On one occasion a woman who was going through a divorce came to my office to seek legal advice. Just as she began to narrate her story she broke into tears and wept bitterly. For a long time she could not compose herself and speak, and with lawyers fees are charged by the hour and so the longer you take in consultation, the more you are charged.

This project, ladies and gentlemen, is clearly long overdue. The past decade has seen an escalation in cases of domestic violence and divorce. The disintegration of the family unit as a result of divorce and domestic violence has become a cancer, slowly chewing away the moral fabric of our society. I am currently chairing a committee which seeks to establish a Family Law Court to deal with family issues ranging from divorce and maintenance, to the guardianship and adoption of minors. In November, 2011, members of the Committee and I undertook a study visit to Melbourne, Australia, to share ideas and exchange notes on how to operate a Family Court in a way which caters for the needs of litigants and that of the children involved. The idea of counselling stood out prominently in our discussions. It is vital for litigants to be well informed by a neutral person about the implications of the legal proceedings they will be seeking to initiate. This is important to preserve the family institution.

The launch of LCTZ could not have come at a better time. I say so because on Tuesday the Government launched a flagship programme entitled “Equal Access to Justice for All”. Under this programme all key stakeholders are going to come together, pool resources and strategise in a bid to improve the justice, law and order sector and ensure equal access to justice for all. I, therefore, cannot overemphasise the importance of LCTZ. This launch comes at a time when the Government is inviting ideas and encouraging a holistic sector wide approach to improving the justice delivery system and I must commend the founder of LCTZ for this initiative which I believe will go a long way in assisting litigants and thus aiding the Government’s goal for better accessibility to the justice delivery system. The alternative dispute resolution mechanism offered by LCTZ will most certainly help reduce the backlog in our courts.

In your endeavour to assist the underpriviledged, poor and rural communities to access legal counselling and education I advise you to partner with the Legal Aid Directorate. The Legal Aid Directorate is a department in the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs mandated to offer free legal advice or at a minimal cost to the underpriviledged. The department is currently operating from Harare and Bulawayo and will soon decentralise to smaller towns in a bid to bring justice to the people. If you combine your efforts with theirs you will certainly make a difference.

It is for this and all the other reasons cited above that the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs gladly receives this product and would like to urge all stakeholders in the justice, law and order sector to run with this project for the betterment of our justice delivery system.”

If fully operational the trust is expected to bring about better results in the justice delivery system.

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