5 February 2009:
BONELA APPLAUDS Formation of Legal Aid Service and Law Reform Agency
The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV and AIDS (BONELA) would like to applaud the Government of Botswana for the much needed legal aid service and Law Reform Agency that were recently instituted in the country.
Commenting on this development, Bonela Legal Officer, Uyapo Ndadi said: “As a lawyer who deals with indigent clients everyday, I fully understand what difference to one’s life legal aid can make. I have endured the pain of being unable to help people presenting unassailable cases falling outside our mandate. Such clients would naturally give up their strong and winnable cases because they cannot afford legal fees, which are in most cases exorbitant”.
Bonela is also heartened by the establishment of the Law Reform Agency, a development anticipated to expedite the law reform process in Botswana. “As a legal practitioner, there is nothing as painful as dealing with archaic laws that have no relevance to modern day Botswana. The gaps in our laws open up opportunities for human rights abuses, such as the continued discrimination of employees in the workplace based on their actual or perceived HIV status”, Ndadi said.
Bonela trusts that both initiatives will be expedited and see the light of day as any further delay will amount to condemning deserving inhabitants to inhuman and degrading lives as some lose jobs and houses and often feel emasculated to do anything about it as they cannot afford the high costs of hiring an attorney.
In 2008 alone, BONELA’s legal aid clinic handled 50 court cases of which 30 have been settled out of court and some are still in progress. The cases highlight human rights abuses such as unfair dismissal, stigma, discrimination, wrong HIV diagnosis, denied access to tests and deportation in a specific case, and give proof to the overwhelming need for both legal aid and law reform in the country.