Coordinator of the Interim Botswana Legal Aid, Peter Brits, has defended his organisation for giving Non Governmental Organsations funds to use as legal funds for people who cannot afford legal representation.
“Many problems experienced by indigent people can be solved by advice, correspondence and negotiation and NGO’s do valuable work in this regard,” he said.
Brits said this when asked to comment on the statement recently made by the Chairman of the Botswana Law Society, Lawrance Lecha, during the opening of the legal year when he said that he finds it strange that Legal Aid was paying funds to NGOs and not to legal practitioners who can appear in Court to represent people.
“When it becomes necessary to file pleadings or appear in court NGOs refer their clients to legal practitioners in private practice. These NGOs have existing agreements with various private practitioners that usually involve either reduced fees or free services,” he said.
Currently, he said they are dealing with four NGOs, namely Ditshwanelo, Emang Basadi, BONELA and Women Against Rape. These NGOs he said have an existing client base and a high degree of credibility and legitimacy amongst the indigent citizens of Botswana.
Each NGO with whom Legal Aid Botswana has a cooperation agreement with is obliged to provide statistical and financial reports on a monthly basis, he said. Against receipt of the required reports the NGOs currently each receive P37 500.00 per month.
By 31st December 2013, Brits said the four NGOs had received a total of 1744 legal aid applications of which of which 194 were still unfinalised as at 31st December 2013.
On whether they are satisfied with the performance of the NGO’s, Brits said that taken as a whole LAB is satisfied with the performance of its NGO cooperation partners.
He said when the Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Act 2013 is brought into operation, NGOs will be able to render even more cost effective legal service delivery by being accredited as Law Clinics and employing salaried legal practitioners.
Asked to comment Lecha, stood by his statement that the intended people would be better served if money was paid to practising lawyers than to NGOs.