Courtroom Mail continues with the quest to hear the views of lawyers across Africa on how the experiences of Covid-19 should change the way we practice Law in Africa.

We have previously published views from Zimbabwe,Kenya,Uganda,Malawi. Here we have the views from Obakeng Nthomamisi,a lawyer from Botswana,Ignatious Mahlokwane from South Africa and Bruce Hatimbula from Zambia

Ignatious Mahlokwane

In 2019 the Office of Chief Justice South Africa developed a court online system. From the website of the judiciary, the Court Online system is an end-to end system e-filing, digital case and evidence management system. Its aim is to ensure a platform for law firms and litigants to file documents using the electronic means. The system is currently being developed by the divisions of South African High Courts, in the nine province of the country. One province, Gauteng is at slow pace leading with the implementation. The South African government has made promises to improve the broadband coverage. In April 24th 2019 a Competition Commission South Africa released report ‘data services market inquiry’ where it made substantial recommendations to the government to improve the affordability and reliability of data use and access by the public. Leading network providers were forced to slash their data prices. It was found in the report that the costs of data in South Africa is expensive compared to the other States in the continent and globally. Under lockdown, few cases are heard over the online system with many technical impediments or inefficiency. There are more shortfalls other than the ones stated. This comes to the question, how should we change the way we practice law in Africa?

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The migration to electronic platforms for litigation and arguing cases should be prioritised and embarked upon. However, same should not be financially burdening to practice and access of law. The various state entities should be involved, or the governments themselves should be pioneers of the electronic court systems to avert the milking of the public by unethical companies. In departure, African countries should follow conduct feasibility studies on the efficiency of the online system.

Ignatious Marekolle Mahlokwane
Director of Mahlokwane Attorneys- South Africa

Bruce Changu Jamu Hatimbula

The practice of law in Africa must change from the conventional means to seeking more modern solutions both in law firms and courts in general. Remote facilities must be an integral part of law practice going forward.

Bruce Changu Jamu Hatimbula
Country:Zambia

Obakeng Nthomamisi

Since time immemorial, jurists have upheld the view that the law is not static and evolves with time. This is true. However, the law is a prism and has many sides apart from submissions by counsel and judgements by justices. The courtroom and its process are the other sides of our prism. They have, however, remained in the 15th century. Pleadings to this day and age are filed and served personally, court hearings are conducted in person in the courtroom before judges; and licking a stamp and appending it to the pages of Notice of Motions, Affidavits, etc still excites us.

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Covid-19 has proven that these processes of court leave justice extremely vulnerable. Only urgent matters are now heard in the traditional sense within the court due to extreme social distancing measures enforced by governments. We must note that justice is not limited to urgent matters. Justice is to be seen in all things of the court, no matter how small the case may be.
A reform of court rules is therefore warranted. We live in the cyber age. Teleconferencing, video conferencing platforms and data sharing mediums are increasingly being used and secure. A few clicks of the keyboard can transmit anything which can be spoken and done in court. Our courts must therefore embrace the technological advancements not only to deliver judgements and hear oral submissions but promote access to justice. The digitisation of court process will protect the justice system from unforeseen events like an outbreak of a disease such as Covid-19. Further, digitisation of court process will benefit clients in the sense that it leads to reduced costs – lawyers will not need to travel for court appearances and charge for time traveling and time waiting. The practice of law must therefore move towards embracing the digital age.
By Obakeng Nthomamisi
onthomamisi@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “How the Covid-19 experience should change law practice in Africa- Courtroom Mail receives thoughts from Zambia,Botswana and South Africa

  1. I am project manager by professional and what i am failing to understand how the witness are going to be cross examined technological? How the lie detector tests are going to done if the culprit is colocated? lastly why lawyers charges the client if the courtcase is postponed? Why courts are postponing the case on the day of the sitting not prior?

  2. I am project manager by profession and what i am failing to understand how the witness are going to be cross examined technological? How the lie detector tests are going to done if the culprit is colocated? lastly why lawyers charges the client if the courtcase is postponed? Why courts are postponing the case on the day of the sitting not prior?

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