THE Linda Kasonde led Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has increased legal fees by a an astronomical margin with a State Counsel now charging up toK6,784 per hour giving him K 54,272 for an 8-hour day work whereas a senior medical surgeon gets less than K30,000 per month.
Justice Given Lubinda has condemned the revised legal fees as being too high for ordinary Zambians.
According to Statutory Instrument No. 6 of 2017, a lawyer of less than 5 years’ experience who used to charge K300 per hour would now charge K1,481 per hour for rendering an oral opinion while court appearance would cost up to K2,467 per hour.
Minister of Justice Given Lubinda said it was unfortunate that while the lawyers have given themselves hefty legal fees, many Zambian citizens would fail to access the service, hence depriving people access to legal representation. Mr Lubinda said although he had not yet looked at the Legal Practitioners Act himself, he was aware of the high increment in legal fees and admitted that not many Zambians could afford legal services with the new fees.
The Justice Minister said that as much as legal fees were the only means of income for the lawyers, he was worried that justice would only become a prerequisite for the rich which was an injury to justice.
“I am worried because the fees will become beyond the reach of citizens. I saw the figures and indeed not many Zambians can afford,’’ he said.
He said the justice system required a motivated legal counsel that was accessible to his clients, but that with the current fees, it was impossible to satisfy that notion as it would only be justice for the rich and not all the people.
The Minister, however, was hopeful that with the concerns raised in the inaccessible fees, the lawyers themselves through their Legal Practitioners Committee could revisit the increment and make them more affordable for the realisation of justice for all.
Mr Lubinda said there were many people in Zambian prisons not because they were guilty but because they could not afford proper legal representation.
And Registrar at the Judiciary Charles Kafunda has advised that the Chief Justice only issues Statutory Instruments after the various institutions come up with an agreed Act.
Mr Kafunda said the new Legal Fees Act was a making of the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) that provided policy direction on the SI, which was then taken to the Chief Justice for issuance as required under the law.
“All such issues are raised by the various institutions, and in this case, the SI 6 and 7 of 2017 was done by LAZ, and all the Chief Justice Ireen Mambilima did was issue,” he said.
Meantime, LAZ president Linda Kasonde could not immediately respond to the press query but instead requested for an email which has still not been responded to.
And Mr Lubinda disclosed that Government was doing everything possible to improve the Legal Aid in Zambia in order to help provide free legal services for those unable to access it.
He said the Ministry of Justice would soon appoint a new Board at Legal Aid to rekindle its operations and stated that the institution would be decentralised around the country to enable more citizens acquire free legal services.