The National Human Rights and Access to Justice Conference has officially opened in Harare with corruption cited as one of the major hindrances in accessing justice on the African continent.

200 delegates representing civil society organisations, government institutions, members of the diplomatic corps, independent commissions and academia are discussing the key human rights issues which Zimbabwe needs to look into in the next five years in relation to access to justice, gender, corruption, peace and reconciliation.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Justice Charles Mkandawire, who is the President of the Commonwealth Judges and Magistrates Association and judge of the High Court in Malawi, stressed that corruption needs to be dealt with swiftly as it has crippled the justice delivery system on the continent.

“If there is judicial corruption, there will be distorted outcomes,” he said.

Mr Tinoziva Bere, a member of the Legal Resource Foundation board of trustees, concurred with Justice Mkandawire, adding that corruption reports should be taken seriously and offenders punished.

”If offenders are not punished then people will lose confidence in the justice delivery system,” he said.

High costs of legal representation have also been cited as a hindrance to accessing justice in Zimbabwe with lawyers charging from $90 to $350 just for an hour.

The two day conference organised by the Legal Resource Foundation is also meant to provide state institutions with an opportunity to share on the measurers they have been taking in resolving human rights and access to justice challenges.