By Martin Muleya
Transparency International Zimbabwe is lobbying for access to justice for people living with disabilities as they face a myriad of challenges in all Justice delivery systems.
As enshrined in the constitution, every individual has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law and in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic but thus not the true reflection of the people living with disability as injustices stems from basic amenities from the Police to Judiciary.
Access to justice through court system for people living with disabilities is trampled upon daily in the country with this complexity surrounding the courts.
One is tempted to imagine the plight of people living with disabilities who face societal backlash amongs other things which clearly plummeted people’s confidence as far as justice in the courts of law is concerned.
The physical barriers can impede the people living with disabilities from accessing justice at the courtroom especially at Rotten Row magistrate court where the elevators are mulfanctioning.
The Chief Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi was quoted denouncing the malfunctioning elevators at the said Courts.
This is just an illustration of how the powers-be in the Judiciary system temporarily forget that even people living with disabilities also need access to all the service an able boded can also access.
Tariro Foundation Zimbabwe administrator Godfrey Dzveta highlighted that accessing justice for people living with disabilities is still a far fetched dream.
“One issue of accessing the courts is the infrastructure not accommodative to people with disabilities.
“To start with, there is communication barriers between service providers and people living with disabilities, some have visual impairments while other are not able to talk or write”
“The high costs of accessing legal services is another factor as well as timeframe for preparing a case to be heard in Court is a setback in as far as accessing justice for people living with disabilities is concerned,” noted Dzveta.
Accessing legal aid is still a challenge for most people living with disabilities despite the fact that our supreme law is emphasizing that every person has a right to fair justice.
The visual verification requirement is just one aspect of the complexity of the law. A blind person cannot testify to her child in a scenario where it is purported to be a victim of rape.
Manicaland Police Provincial Spokesperson Inspector Luxson Chananda said that the law enforcement agents are crafting strategies that also rope in people living with disabilities in ensuring that justice reaches them.
“As police we want people living with disability or vulnerable groups of society to access justice by way of educating them and empowering them on what they should expect from the Zimbabwe Republic Police and actually ensuring that there is easy access to reporting their cases in terms of movement to any police institution be it at a police post, district or provincial levels.
“The police are eager to assist these people because this is the first stage where justice is exercised before the courts. So as police we kindly urge people living with disabilities to go and report or do follow up on their cases without fear or hesitation because its their right to be heard and assisted,” said Insp Chananda.
Legal Aid Directorate official Evelyn Ngorima also emphasised that her department was eager to assist people living with disabilities by offering free legal advice, aid and representation and trust team .
“Our offices have already been decentralized in various provinces across the country and the premises are very accessible and take cognisant of people living with disabilities.