Coun­cil for Le­gal Ed­u­ca­tion tight­ens con­di­tions for for­eign law school grad­u­ates

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Aux­ilia Ka­ton­go­mara

THE Coun­cil for Le­gal Ed­u­ca­tion (CLE) has tight­ened con­di­tions for grad­u­ates with for­eign-ac­quired law de­grees seek­ing to prac­tise in the coun­try.

Statu­tory In­stru­ment 111 of 2016 gazetted the Uni­ver­sity of Zim­babwe and the Mid­lands State Uni­ver­sity as the only in­sti­tu­tions whose students were granted au­to­matic nod by the CLE to start work­ing in the coun­try af­ter grad­u­at­ing.

The CLE is a statu­tory body whose man­date is to en­sure high stan­dards of le­gal ed­u­ca­tion in the coun­try.

CLE sec­re­tary Mr In­no­cent Mawire said the new mea­sures have been ef­fected for qual­ity con­trol pur­poses and not to bar any­one from prac­tis­ing law in Zim­babwe. He said the law would not be ap­plied in ret­ro­spect.

Pre­vi­ously qual­i­fi­ca­tions from the Uni­ver­sity of Zam­bia, and law schools from Botswana, Le­sotho, Swazi­land and the United King­dom were ap­proved, but hold­ers of the de­grees had to write con­ver­sion tests.

Un­der the lat­est mea­sures, grad­u­ates from for­eign uni­ver­si­ties would not re­ceive a blan­ket ap­proach. Ap­pli­cants would be treated on a case by case ba­sis by the CLE to de­cide if they qual­ify to write con­ver­sion tests.

Mr Mawire said un­der the new reg­u­la­tions, law diplo­mas from the United King­dom were no longer recog­nised in the coun­try.

“There are two main rea­sons which in­formed this amend­ment. The first one, in 2014 South Africa con­vened what they called the LLB sum­mit where they ex­pressed se­ri­ous reser­va­tions about the qual­ity of le­gal ed­u­ca­tion in South Africa. So as the coun­cil we said if the coun­try of ori­gin has a prob­lem with its own qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion why should we au­to­mat­i­cally des­ig­nate those qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Let’s ap­proach them on a case by case ba­sis,” said Mr Mawire.

“Then the sec­ond rea­son is that the pre­vi­ous SI also recog­nised diplo­mas from the UK, so you could go to Lon­don, do your two year di­ploma and come back to prac­tise in Zim­babwe, which was far be­low the stan­dards.”

Mr Mawire said pre­vi­ously there were stan­dard cour­ses for for­eign qual­i­fi­ca­tions but now grad­u­ates would be as­sessed through their re­sults on the tran­script.

He said they were also go­ing to re­view the num­ber of sub­jects law students had to write.

The new reg­u­la­tions also af­fect law students un­der­go­ing part time lec­tures at the Uni­ver­sity of Zim­babwe.

Ac­cord­ing to the Statu­tory In­stru­ment, only full time students from the UZ and the Mid­lands State Uni­ver­sity have au­to­matic en­try into law prac­tice. Part time grad­u­ates have to un­der­take con­ver­sion tests.

“As for part time grad­u­ates, the UZ has to ap­ply for des­ig­na­tion. First place they have to ap­proach the coun­cil that we are of­fer­ing this de­gree and we are sub­ject­ing our­selves to scru­tiny to see if we meet the re­quired stan­dards. The im­pli­ca­tion is that it will be treated like any other for­eign qual­i­fi­ca­tion,” said Mr Mawire.

He said they were still mon­i­tor­ing the He­bert Chitepo Law School at Great Zim­babwe Uni­ver­sity and Ezekiel Guti Uni­ver­sity un­til their first grad­u­a­tions.

Law So­ci­ety of Zim­babwe pres­i­dent Mrs Vim­bai Nyemba wel­comed the new SI say­ing it was meant to main­tain stan­dards of the pro­fes­sion.

“It’s al­ways been the norm that students un­der­take con­ver­sion ex­am­i­na­tions but the whole idea is to main­tain stan­dards. The des­ig­na­tion of UZ and MSU means all other uni­ver­si­ties have not been des­ig­nated and their grad­u­ates have to un­dergo con­ver­sion tests just like those from for­eign uni­ver­si­ties,” said Mrs Nyemba.

Prom­i­nent lawyer Mr Tendai Biti said the net ef­fect of the statu­tory in­stru­ment was that only the UZ and MSU were be­ing trusted as they can prac­tise straight­away. He said: “Ba­si­cally what they are say­ing is you can do your law de­gree any­where in the world or in the coun­try but we don’t trust them, they are not good enough other than those from UZ and MSU.” -@Aux­il­iaK

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