Malawi Government on Friday appealed to lawyers to consider offering free legal services to the community as a means of ensuring access to justice and accountability.
Minister of Lands and Housing Henry Phoya made the appeal at Sunbird Mount Soche in Blantyre at the Attorney Generalâ€™s (AG) annual dinner themed â€˜Professionalism and Accountabilityâ€™.
The dinner was attended by new and old faces in the legal profession that included former Minister of Justice and AG Peter Fachi, retired Supreme Court of Appeal judge James Kalaile and several High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal judges.
Phoya, who represented minister of Justice and the AG Ralph Kasambara, said the legal profession needed to have a sense of community and offer services to the community for free.
He said: â€œThe disconnection between the profession and society is just too wide to be missed. Our fees sometimes push some members of our community away from access to justice. Government has a Legal Aid Department, but there is need for all of us to complement its efforts in this area.â€
Phoya, a lawyer himself and former minister of Justice and AG, said it was a shameful irony that now, with an increased intake and graduating rate of lawyers both locally and foreign trained, the lawyers were failing to address a considerable proportion of the legal needs of the poor.
On accountability, Phoya said there was need for Malawi Law Society (MLS) to have a robust disciplinary mechanism to address issues of discipline and lack of professionalism.
MLS president John-Gift Mwakhwawa, who spoke before Phoya, said lawyers must at all times explain to their clients how they arrive at legal fees to avoid suspicion.
Mwakhwawa also appealed to government to be transparent in the way it awards contracts, appointment or removal of public officers and that all parliamentary committee meetings be open to the public.