Legal Aid SA shares expertise and guidance with Sierra Leone on its legal aid system

August 1st, 2017

Sierra Leone’s Chief Justice, Justice Abdulai Charm (left) with KwaZulu-Natal’s Regional Operations Executive, Vela Mdaka.

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

Legal Aid South Africa (Legal Aid SA) provided expertise and guidance to Sierra Leone in setting up their legal aid system. In a press release, Legal Aid SA, said that as part of their strategic intervention to support developing countries in their efforts to establish their own legal aid system, KwaZulu-Natal’s Regional Operations Executive, Vela Mdaka, visited Sierra Leone.

Mr Mdaka’s week-long visit that was facilitated by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa was intended to share information and expertise. ‘This brings about meaningful support to the developing countries as we use our expertise and knowledge to provide guidance and advice as required by such countries. Sierra Leone is one of the countries that have been allocated such support. For the support to be effective, it was necessary to visit the country as well to observe … their operations on the delivery of legal aid services,’ said Mr Mdaka.

The statement added that the strategic sites visitation was arranged in such a way that a full understanding of operations was achieved. Mr Mdaka’s first stop was at the Sierra Leone Legal Aid Board offices, where he met with the Board’s Director and staff members. His visit was followed by a meeting with Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara.

KwaZulu-Natal’s Regional Operations Executive, Vela Mdaka, with Sierra Leone’s
Minister of Justice, Honourable Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara and Director of Sierra Leone Legal Aid Board, Claire Carlton.

In the press release, Legal Aid SA pointed out how important it was for access to justice to be promoted so that human rights can be guaranteed. Legal Aid SA said it had the opportunity to observe court proceedings and also had a meeting with Sierra Leone’s Chief Justice, Justice Abdulai Charm and the Chairperson of Sierra Leone Legal Aid Board, Justice Adeliza Showers. Among the places visited was the Community Bureau, an organisation made up of retired senior citizens, who held prominent positions in the community. This organisation provides expertise required in dispute resolution. ‘Chiefs play an important role in the dispute resolution among the members of the community in Sierra Leone. The Paramount Chief Alimamy Dura III invited all the chiefs within his chiefdom to meet [with the] Legal Aid Board of Sierra Leone and Legal Aid South Africa,’ Mr Mdaka said.

‘The visit was definitely a success, getting first-hand information and understanding the operations and infrastructure. Of course we learnt a lot in terms of areas that will be new to us, which would help improve access to justice,’ added Mr Mdaka.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2017 (Aug) DR 8.