The head of government’s legal aid initiative, Peter Brits, says his office has received a positive and encouraging response ever since it was launched. Brits told The Telegraph that Legal Aid has already started receiving cases from members of the public who are seeking legal assistance.
“So far, we have received maintenance cases and property cases, where clients are suing construction companies for breach of contract. We are very impressed with the response that we got from Batswana, and we hope it will continue,” he said.
However, Legal Aid currently does not fund criminal cases at the Magistrates court. Lawyers have in the past expressed misgivings about this, saying criminal cases should have been given more priority as there are many accused persons who need legal aid at the courts, and who end up languishing in prison. Brits explained that the issue will be addressed when the Legal Aid is reviewed after six months.
Brits said criminal cases are more demanding and consume more funds than civil cases.
The Legal Aid office currently has five lawyers and four paralegals who were seconded from the Attorney General’s Chambers. Brits said they have reached an agreement with the Law Society of Botswana, in which LSB members will dedicate forty hours of their time to pro bono work annually before they qualify for payment from Legal Aid.
Brits also revealed that Legal Aid will start funding registered NGO’s that deal with protection of Batswana’s legal rights. Ditshwanelo, Botswana Network of Aids Service Organization (BONASO) and Women Against Rape (WAR) have so far been fingered for funding of up to P37, 000 per month.
The NGO’s will at the end of the month be expected to account for the allocated funds.