Justice ministry spent N$35 million on legal aid

Erasmus Shalihaxwe

A total of 9,110 people applied for legal aid during the 2023/24 financial year, of which 5,428 applications were granted while some are still pending.

This was done with a budget of N$35 million, which includes expenditure for ongoing cases.

The Minister of Justice, Yvonne Dausab revealed this in the National Assembly this week during the budget debate.

She stated that Namibia is one of the few countries in the African continent that provides legal aid to indigent litigants at the expense of the State.

Therefore, the government makes budget provisions for that purpose every year, because access to justice is a fundamental principle on which the Namibian democracy is built.

Hence, the ministry continuously endeavours to enhance the legal aid scheme to allow more Namibians to qualify for legal representation under the scheme.

“In this financial year, the Ministry wishes to increase the income threshold to allow more people to qualify for legal aid. I am hopeful that with the budget allocated for legal aid, we will be able to do this as there is a need to focus more resources on cases with a socio-economic impact. Our goal is to ensure that no individual is denied access to the courts and tribunals due to financial constraints or lack of legal representation, thereby leaving no one behind in the pursuit of justice,” she said.

She added that thanks to the implementation of the case management system, the Legal Aid Directorate has managed to decrease the processing time of applications, although the number of applications is continuously increasing.

“Additionally, the Civil Unit within the Directorate has been expanded to provide more legal representation in civil cases, which impacts on the economic rights of our people, including matters that affect the status of people,” she alluded.

The minister further stated that in an effort to improve oversight function in instances of outsourcing, the ministry intends to amend the Legal Aid Act, to provide the safeguard to ensure, that legal practitioners who don’t provide quality service to clients are dealt with in accordance with a set of norms and standards of accountability.

“We recognise the many brave Namibians who have shared their experiences and discomfort and are in part, the catalysts for this envisaged improvement,” she added.

Legal aid is given to members of the public who cannot afford to pay private lawyers when they are facing legal cases.

Dausab further announced that the ministry has recently obtained approval from the Public Service Commission to establish the Directorate of Community Courts, with the aim of prioritising the significance of the role and functions of the courts.

“In the previous financial year, an amount of N$15 million was allocated to the Community Courts and I am pleased to announce that the amount was primarily spent on the needs of these Courts. We have received feedback that these resource allocations have been well received and we look forward to increasing the pool of community courts in the country,” she announced.

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