Review of the Pro-Deo System in Zimbabwe & Prospects for a New Model

Background , Context and Structure

In January 2018, the Law Society of Zimbabwe commissioned research calling for an analytical review of the existing Pro-Deo system in Zimbabwe’s legal framework. This call directly responds to various gaps, weaknesses, inefficiencies and challenges inherent in the existing institutional framework, with various stakeholders regularly pointing to these deficiencies in criticizing the system.

In carrying out this task, the Law Society specifically sought to:

  • Conduct baseline surveys and assess the efficiency of the current pro deo system from both the perspective of justice delivery service providers as well as lawyers.
  • Identify and prescribe the legal framework for the running of the pro deo system in Zimbabwe.
  • Identify limitations in the current implementation of the system.
  • Investigate period for pre-trial detention of litigants facing capital offences.
  • Investigate time it takes for a lawyer to be given a pro deo case.
  • Investigate time given to a lawyer to prepare a defence for the accused.
  • Examine time it takes for administrative procedures like lawyers’ expenses to be paid.
  • Examine time it takes for judgment to be handed down in pro deo matters.
  • Identify any other facilities availed to defence lawyers to effectively execute the defence case.
  • Identify costs incurred by legal practitioners and average time spent by them on pro deo matters.
  • Identify years of experience in criminal litigation of a lawyer allocated pro deo matters.
  • Examine the existence of Criminal Registrar of High Court roaster and the extent to which it is relied upon to allocate matters.
  • Review court records and proceedings as well as observations at the courts and police.
  • Design a model pro deo system and to set benchmarks for attaining the ideal pro deo system.


The Report is structured as follows:

Section 1 contains the Introduction clarifies the place and purpose of the Pro Deo in Zimbabwe’s justice framework, and sets out the international human rights law and national constitutional law context of the Pro-Deo system in Zimbabwe. It further presents the research method, in as far as this explains the manner in which this research was conducted, and research findings obtained. The major challenges and limitations encountered in conducting the research will be outlined.

Section 2 is a general discussion of Zimbabwe’s legal framework for the Pro-Deo system. It outlines the identity and role of the main actors and institutions that administers the system and the general policy context underpinning the Pro Deo system. Finally, this section presents the judicial approach to Pro-Deo, through cases decided in the High Court, and the general attitudes and perceptions of the main stakeholders about Pro Deo services.

Section 3 of this Report interrogates comparative approaches to pro deo services in Africa. For purposes of brevity, two case studies of South Africa and Uganda were chosen owing to the practical approaches these systems have adopted.

The final part presents the structural model that the researchers regard as a possible substitute to the current pro deo system. In this part, the researchers design a new model altogether that can provide practical outcomes, and that can work in the Zimbabwean context.

Read the full report here (1MB PDF)

The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) has been implementing a three year project with support from the European Union (EU) from 2017- 2020.

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

Source: Law Society of Zimbabwe

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