Zimbabwe: Chinamasa under fire for “ridiculous” comments

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The legal fraternity in Zimbabwe has condemned Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa who claimed that “dismal and half baked’ lawyers are churned at the University of Zimbabwe.

University of Zimbabwe is the oldest higher learning institution in the country.

Chinamasa made the shocking allegations that have outraged the law fraternity to parliament saying the majority of graduates struggle to grasp the basics of law.

Said Chinamasa, “The quality of graduates from our university is dismal. The problem is deeper and more pervasive than meets the eye… half baked lawyers who were denting the reputation of the country’s legal fraternity are produced”

The Law faculty has launched their attack at Chinamasa. In a hard-hitting response, the Dean of the Law Faculty, Emmanuel Magade, said the claims by Chinamasa came as “a bolt from the blue” and were “ridiculous”.

“We categorically refute the minister’s claims. In fact we wonder where it is coming from because over the years we have produced lawyers who have represented the country very well, locally, regionally and internationally,” he said.

“We still have some of the staff who taught even the minister himself and our students have won the overall best team in regional competitions. This indicates that we are the best faculty in Africa” said Magade.

He was referring to a team that won the Moot Court competition that involved 14 universities from all over the continent in 2007 and 2009 respectively and two students working at the International Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha and others working at The Hague.

“Instead of the brick-bats we are getting from the minister, we are supposed to be getting Oscars for our efforts. I am not sure where he is getting the half-baked lawyers he is talking about,” he said.

“While it is possible that he (Chinamasa) might have worked with incompetent individuals within his ministry, it doesn’t mean all are like that. We have highly respected lawyers in the legislature, executive and across the political board who are products of this institution”.

The Law faculty has over the years turned out individuals who have grown to be human rights defenders and have in many cases clashed with Chinamasa over the country’s poor justice delivery system.

Magade said that Chinamasa’s claims on the faculty producing politicians instead of lawyers were “ridiculous”.

“It is absolutely ridiculous to allege that the faculty teaches politics to its students instead of law. We have never deviated from our primary mandate of training highly qualified lawyers,” he said.

In recent years, the law school has been facing a mass exodus of its teaching staff “but this has not deterred the few dedicated academics of repute who have continued to support the faculty conducting lectures at a pittance,” he said.

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