Tue, 04 Apr 2017 09:53:58 +0000




THE Law Association of Zambia must revisit the new legal fees to make them affordable as the existing fees have already contributed to severe congestion in correctional facilities as many Zambians already cannot afford legal representation, says Prisons Care and Counselling Association executive director Godfrey Malembeka.

Any increase in fees, he said, however small was unacceptable because many Zambians were already failing to meet the existing fees.

Dr Malembeka said that he was worried that the legal fees, which have gone up by 500 percent in some cases, would cause mayhem in remand prisons because the situation was already dire as most citizens could hardly afford legal representation, hence languishing for many years in remand before they could appear in court.

In an interview yesterday, Dr Malembeka called on Government to intervene in the matter and for LAZ to revisit their decision, saying henceforth only people with money could attain justice. He observed that many people were stuck in prison because they had no lawyers and cited a case where a man in Kalulushi has been in remand for seven years without making a court appearance.

He said that LAZ should strengthen the pro borno initiative, saying it would have helped ease the situation in prisons even in light of the revised fees but observed that pro bono services in Zambia were not effective.

Dr Malembeka said that LAZ needed to collaborate with the Judiciary and Ministry of Justice and come up with reasonable fees affordable to ordinary citizens. ‘‘My immediate response on behalf of thousands of poor citizens in correctional facilities who are languishing in remand and prisons because they cannot afford legal representation is that the Law Association of Zambia needs to revisit their decision.

‘‘I am worried because exorbitant legal fees have contributed to the current congestion in our prisons and overcrowding in police cells. I am saying so because pro borno is not effective,’’ he said. Dr Malembeka said 70 percent of people incarcerated were between 19 and 35 years old, most of them were school leavers or unemployed and that overcrowding had contributed to the high prevalence rate of HIV and tuberculosis. He said that the Legal Aid Board was not present in all districts and was understaffed, hence it was overwhelmed with workload and that it was inadequately funded to help as many people as possible who could not afford legal representation.

Dr Malembeka also said that he would soon write Minister of Justice Given Lubinda if three major correctional facilities in the country – Kamfinsa, Mukobeko and Lusaka Central – can be allowed to participate in the consultation process of the International Criminal Court, saying it had happened in other African countries.


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