The Role of Legal Practitioners in the Fight Against Corruption
Published in the Newsday.
Legal practitioners are key actors in the legal system and as ministers in the temple of justice have a crucial role to play in the fight against corruption. Section 63 of the Legal Practitioners Act provides that: “A lawyer shall uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the cause of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct and shall not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner”.
In carrying out their duties, legal practitioners must bear allegiance principally to the victims of corruption and other human rights violations by ensuring that the rule of law prevails. However, corruption in the justice sector has continued to make headlines resulting in the public losing confidence in the justice system and to the breakdown to the rule of law. To restore confidence in the public, legal practitioners must take the ethics of the profession seriously and not be seen as frustrating the course of justice. At all times, legal practitioners must be seen to be exhibiting utmost integrity and be seen to be incorruptible. Lawyers must desist from wanting to win cases at all costs disregarding their ethical conduct.
It is sad to note that the human face of corruption has also manifested itself through the corrupt behaviour of dishonest legal practitioners both in Government and private practice. Threats of an economic crises coupled with a closing space for junior lawyers to fully develop themselves and earn their remuneration in honesty has had a negative impact on the role of legal practitioners to fight corruption.
In a seminar conducted by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), lawyers revealed that they were not happy with what they perceived to be a conspiracy to commit acts of corruption amongst police officers, prosecutors and some of their colleagues. They alleged that they no longer have much work to do in the criminal courts as a result of the alleged “syndicate” amongst law officers in the justice delivery system.
From the cases of corruption implicating practicing lawyers, it is apparent that some lawyers appear heavily challenged in the role expected of them to tackle and combat corruption in the face of mouthwatering offers. The fact that the environment in which most lawyers operate is pervaded by corruption does not give a green light to compromise and alter the course of justice. The absence of credible lawyers to carry out and uphold the rule of law poses a threat to the eradication of corruption as lawyers are important actors in the legal system.
TI Z commends the Law society of Zimbabwe for always timeously acting on corruption reports forwarded through TI Z and the public, thereby advancing the “Zero tolerance to corruption” agenda.