Legal Aid will open doors to justice for the poor and marginalised- Phakama Shili

15 February 2024

Phakama Shili is a Senior Legal Aid Officer in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, championing the work of the recently established Legal Aid office in Eswatini. In our latest civil servants’ blog, Shili talks about his work in the country’s justice sector and how Legal Aid will improve the lives of the poor and marginalised.

Government Communications (GC): “When did you join the Civil Service?”

Phakama Shili (PS): “I joined the Civil Service in September 2015.”

GC: “What is your current job now and what does it entail?”

PS: “I currently serve as a Senior Legal Aid Officer in the Legal Aid Office, overseeing the Lubombo Region under the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. My role involves providing guidance and supervision to a team of legal aid officers, ensuring the efficient delivery of legal aid services and client support. I also review and assess complex legal cases, provide advice, and develop strategies to advocate for our clients' rights. Additionally, I contribute to the administration of legal aid programs, including budgeting and resource mobilization.

Policy development is another significant aspect of my role. I actively participate in the formulation and implementation of legal aid policies and procedures, ensuring compliance with legal requirements and continuously improving our services. Furthermore, I engage with stakeholders such as Government agencies, community organizations, and legal professionals to promote access to justice and the importance of legal aid services.”

GC: “Before this role, what other positions did you occupy in the Service?”

PS: “Before this role I worked as a Human Rights Examiner for the Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration/Integrity for 7 years. In this position I was responsible for conducting thorough investigations into reported allegations of human rights violations, corruption, injustice, and abuse of public power. These investigations aimed to gather substantial evidence and verify the claims made, ultimately ensuring that the Commission effectively fulfilled its mandate of safeguarding and upholding individuals' rights. By carrying out thorough investigations, I contributed to Government's efforts and initiatives aimed at ensuring that the people of Eswatini can fully enjoy the realization of their rights. Additionally, this process played a crucial role in providing accurate information to Government, enabling informed decision-making and appropriate actions in response to complaints.”

GC: “What is the role of the Legal Aid and how do you think it will benefit emaSwati?”

PS: “The Legal Aid Office is responsible for the coordination and provision of legal aid services in the country. Legal aid plays a pivotal role in improving the living conditions of the poor and marginalized by addressing their legal needs. With legal services often being prohibitively expensive, access to legal aid becomes essential for ensuring fair and equitable justice. By providing legal representation, legal education, alternative dispute resolution and advise, legal aid empowers individuals to navigate the complex legal system, safeguards their rights, and promotes their active participation in society. Essentially legal aid will open doors to justice for those who cannot afford the services of a lawyer.”

GC: “So far, what would you say the biggest highlight/achievement of your Civil Service journey has been?”

PS: “When reflecting on my civil service journey, it is challenging to single out one particular achievement as many of the initiatives I have worked on have contributed to improving the lives of Eswatini's citizens. However, I take great pride in being one of the initial personnel appointed to the Secretariat of the Commission on Human Rights. In this capacity, I played a pivotal role in developing and implementing systems and procedures for the management and strategic resolution of human rights violations. By establishing well-organized systems for handling complaints, I actively contributed to the effectiveness of the country's mechanisms for promoting and protecting human rights.

Another notable accomplishment has been my involvement in establishing a multi-stakeholder forum for human rights actors. This forum, which I conceived and initiated, provides a platform for both Government and non-state actors to monitor and evaluate progress in the implementation of the country's human rights obligations. Since its establishment in 2022, this project has yielded significant results and serves as an essential mechanism for fostering collaboration and accountability among various stakeholders.”

GC: “What is the biggest project that you have been involved in working for Government?”

PS: “One of the most significant projects I have participated in during my tenure in the Government is the formulation of the legal aid policy, which subsequently led to the establishment of the Legal Aid office. As a member of the technical team responsible for developing this policy, I gained valuable experience in engaging stakeholders and understanding Government procedures, as well as other relevant social security systems. This enabled us to create a policy that could be effectively implemented, taking into account the broader context of legal services provision and the needs of emaSwati.”

GC: “What do you love the most about working in Government?”

PS: “Working in Government has afforded me the privilege to serve the people of Eswatini. As a civil servant, my primary responsibility is to safeguard the welfare and prosperity of emaSwati in alignment with Government policies. Within the Government context, it is crucial to adopt a proactive approach and diligently acquire the necessary knowledge and understanding to provide informed advice to superiors and effectively implement Government policies. In essence, working for Government revolves around ensuring the fulfilment of Government commitments and upholding high standards of ethical behaviour to preserve and project a positive image of the country.”

GC: “What do you love the most about your job and profession?”

PS: “The aspect I find most satisfying about my job and profession is the ability to utilize the law as a powerful instrument to enhance the well-being of our people. As a lawyer dedicated to providing legal services to those who cannot afford them, I ensure that Government prioritises the interests of the underprivileged and promotes equal access to justice for all. I firmly believe that by dismantling barriers that impede the marginalized from accessing justice, we not only contribute to their economic empowerment but also unlock opportunities across various aspects of their lives. This, in turn, fosters sustainable development for all emaSwati.”

GC: “What would you say are some of the challenges that come with your job?”

PS: “One of the inherent challenges in my job is the persistent issue of service delivery. As a developing nation, we often face resource constraints that impede our ability to provide essential services to those in greatest need. Consequently, our offices often receive criticism and discouragement regarding the effectiveness of our efforts. However, we remain resilient as Government has established robust partnerships with development partners. We approach the challenges incrementally, aiming to make progress one step at a time.”

GC: “What advice would you have for someone who wants to work for Government?”

PS: “The essence of being a civil servant lies in the noble aspiration to serve others. Working in Government offers an exceptional platform for personal growth and the opportunity to actively contribute to the national development of your country. It is a fulfilling role where you become an integral player in fostering human development. Moreover, Government provides diverse career paths, allowing individuals to explore various professional avenues and expand their skill sets. By joining the ranks of civil service, you embark on a journey of continuous learning and advancement, where you can make a meaningful impact while nurturing your own personal and professional growth.”

GC: “What are your aspirations for the future in Government?”

PS: “In the future, I want to take on a managerial role in a department where I can make a meaningful impact on the development of our people. I aim to contribute to the growth and progress of our nation through effective leadership and strategic decision-making. By utilizing my skills and expertise, my goal is to drive positive change, create opportunities, and empower individuals to reach their full potential.”

Editors’ note:

EmaSwati can contact the Eswatini Legal Aid Office here:

Headquarters: RHUS Office Park, Lower Office, Karl Grant Street, Mbabane

Telephone: 2404 4138

Social media:

Facebook: Eswatini Legal Aid

X: @EswaLegalAid

Instagram: @Eswalegalaid


Follow Government on social media:

Facebook: Eswatini Government

X (Twitter): @EswatiniGovern1

Instagram: @eswatini_government

LinkedIn: Eswatini Government

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