Paralegal Advisory Services Institute (PASI) says overcrowding in prisons countrywide can be reduced if communities are empowered to settle and reconcile disputes at a village level before reporting the same cases to police or court.
Pasi made the observation on Monday in Zomba when it distributed 82 bicycles to Village Mediation Programmes (VMP) mediators from Senior Chief Mlumbe and Traditional Authority (T/A) Mwambo in the district with funding from the European Union (EU) through the Democratic Governance Programme (DGP).
VMP is a model of mediation that provides a village-based negotiation scheme that assists poor and vulnerable people to access justice in civil and some minor criminal cases without paying fees.
Eastern Region VMP coordinator Alexander Mwandira said the role of the mediators is to facilitate amicable settlement of cases within communities; hence, giving them bicycles to ease their mobility to hard-to-reach areas for mediation.
He said: Most villagers fail to access formal justice due to the costs of taking cases to court, ignorance on how to access legal representation, lack of knowledge of the law, lack of understanding of court procedures and language barriers among other issues.”
Group Village Head (GVH) N’kapita advised beneficiaries to use the bicycles for their intended purpose.