By KELVIN MUDENDA-
GOVERNMENT has observed that the Judiciary in the country is still struggling with the unbearable high levels of case backlog that requires a number of immediate and long term interventions and innovations.
Justice Minister Given Lubinda said it was heartbreaking to see the large numbers of remandees overcrowded in Zambia’s correctional facilities due to delays in case disposals.
Mr Lubinda said about 4, 345 inmates awaiting convictions were still languishing in correctional facilities across the country.
He said this during the launch of the legal services unit at the Livingstone magistrate’s court yesterday.
He said the launch was taking place at a very critical moment when the demand for legal services in the country was ever increasing.
“Zambians are becoming not only more and more aware of their human rights, but more so demanding that these rights are protected. Unless people know their rights and demand the protection thereof, you cannot expect high levels of development,” Mr Lubinda said.
He expressed sadness that the Judiciary in the country was perceived to be an arm of Government that only benefited the rich in society.
“The fortunate people in our society who can afford to pay legal fees have their cases handled quicker than those of our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate and cannot afford legal fees. But I must state here that the Government of President Edgar Lungu is determined to reverse this trend in the dispensation of justice to all.
“It is for this reason that the Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Union to support various initiatives and innovations in enhancing the efficiency of the justice system,” he said.
The Justice Minister said the creation of the legal Services Unit would undoubtedly help to improve efficiency in the justice sector and will accord the poor and vulnerable people to access justice more easily.
Mr Lubinda said many citizens in the country were upset with arsonists who are burning down courts of law across the country.
“Many citizens are upset with the arsonists but I can assure them that the law will soon catch up with them and I appeal to peace-loving Zambians to be on the lookout for these arsonists,” he said.
Livingstone Chief resident magistrate Willie Sinyangwe said the launch of the Legal Services Unit was meant for the vulnerable in society who could not afford to pay legal fees but would have access to legal services free of charge.
Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) Board chairperson Mabvuto Sakala said his organisation was working closely with other stakeholders in addressing issues of overcrowding in correctional facilities.
Legal Aid Board director Anderson Ngulube said his organisation would endeavour to make sure that citizens had access to justice and legal representation.