Friday, March 1, 2024

Legal Aid Botswana seeks to stay outside govt control

The newly established Legal Aid Botswana aims to stay above government control and influence to become a reliably independent entity.

The Executive spearheaded by the president and his ministers are accused of controlling parliament, the judiciary and a series of institutions that are funded by the government.

“We intend to have our own statute Act and become a fully independent public entity,” said Chief Executive Officer of Legal Aid Botswana, Peter Brits.

He added that the institution strives to offer efficient and professional legal services to the ordinary public to convince them of the talk of independence.

“We will soon move outside the Attorney General Chambers office,” Brits said.

Already doubt is being cast over the transparency and neutrality of Legal Aid Botswana which is within the Attorney General’s advice and influence.

But addressing Ntlo Ya Dikgosi on Monday, Brits cited a considerable number of cases the institution has defended against the government, insisting they will always be there for the public “whenever the need arises.”

“We have drawn much public attendance and awareness from a lot of such cases like medical suits …a surgery that went wrong not only from the government hospitals but including the private,” Brits said, responding to a question from Kgosi Basiamang Garebakwena of Molepolole.

Garebakwens doubts the independence of the institution, established in 2011 for the indigenous poor persons particularly those living in far-flung areas who would not afford legal financial services offered by practicing attorneys.

A brief meeting with Dikgosi is expected to see Legal Aid Botswana preached to the entire general public.

The general public has much contact with traditional leaders in their respective villages. Legal Aid Botswana however does not represent an applicant at a customary court as Botswana statutes do not allow legal representation at the proceedings.

Brits indicated that such cases could be transferred to the magistrates and high courts for Legal Aid to have a say and intervention.

He was answering to the queries raised by Kgosi Mmirwa Malema of Bobirwa region.

Brits further indicated Legal Aid Botswana was at the people’s service anytime of the day and as they find them.

“If you were rich yesterday and today you are broke we will come to your assistance,” he said, comparing Legal Aid Botswana to a hospital which would not reject anybody despite their recklessness.

Farmers whose cattle has been stricken by foot and mouth disease and who are unable to sell their cattle will also be assisted.

Should the applicants be seen to have given the authorities wrong information about their status, such persons are liable for fraud charges.

At the moment Legal Aid Botswana does not worry much about the money allocated to them for the budgetary year 2014-2015 after which time the world including Botswana would probably have fully recovered from the after-effects of recession.

“Our expenses are cost effective and we believe the P15m allocated to the institution will carry us through,” Brits said, reassuring Dikgosi of “no problems as yet.”

Part of the money is expected to build offices in Ghanzi, Maun and Kasane for Legal Aid Botswana to reach the corners of the country.

“We could have build office in Maun but because bureaucratic checks and balances policies we could not,” he said.


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