‘Fake’ Lawyers and ‘Fake’ Degrees in Zimbabwe: Society’s Moral and Cultural Decadence Exposed


What is it about being a lawyer that makes other unscrupulous elements in civil society go to incredulously illicit lengths in being called one? Is it the money? Is it the social status of being part of the “noble” profession? Is it that one must become a lawyer by any means necessary?

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The legal profession is predicated on the non-negotiable professional and ethical values of public trust, unblemished reputation, and confidence. Negotiating these ideals can be daunting for some — but these are the values that lead citizens to deposit their trust in legal practitioners.

It is of course a dream come true for many to attain a law degree and become a registered legal practitioner/notary public/conveyancer. After all, the study and practice of law was the exclusive preserve of white settlers — enforced through racially discriminatory policies in education and all facets of life.

The “noble” profession, it was deemed, was an esoteric field of study that Africans were incapable of undertaking. How blatantly preposterous this was. R.H Christie, one of the foremost legal intellectuals in Rhodesia and South Africa once remarked that Africans were simply unintelligent and could therefore not study law.

The attainment of political independence proved how such racial attitudes were myths. With higher education availed to Africans, many joined the legal profession. The Zimbabwean government immediately fused the legal profession, doing away with the decades-long division of the profession into solicitors and advocates (this privileged white lawyers, most who were advocates).

The dream came true. Black Africans in Zimbabwe could become lawyers too. And, indeed, we became lawyers. Law became one of the lofty professions one could aspire for. It still is.

But recent developments within the legal society have elicited a clarion call for society to deeply reflect its attitudes towards law as a profession. Cases of academic fraud and other malpractices worryingly and profoundly reveal a bigger rot — society’s moral and cultural disregard for truth and upright ethics. An upsetting realization is that we might be all complicit in this decadence; and we collectively need to look deep within ourselves for redemption.

The Council for Legal Education — statutorily tasked with the prerogative of maintaining proper standards of legal education, training, and qualifications — was recently embroiled in an academic fraud storm that called into question the professional standards of the legal profession. It also administers conversion exams for those who study law outside Zimbabwe’s borders.

Huggins Hardwork Duri, who was the executive secretary of the Council for Legal Education, appeared in court last month facing 19 counts of fraud in which he fraudulently processed certificates for ‘lawyers’.

Duri allegedly issued 19 certificates to “undeserving individuals” who had failed the conversion exams. Using these fraudulent certificates, they proceeded to apply for admission as legal practitioners — becoming “fake” lawyers using “fake” degrees. The debacle only came to light after an informant reported Duri to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC).

In another matter, Harare lawyer Linda Kovi appeared in court earlier this month charged with possession of a fake practising certificate she allegedly acquired in 2020. She is part of the 19 allegedly issued fake certificates by Huggins Hardwork Duri.

Last year, the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) warned members of the public to be wary of “fake lawyers on the prowl” — who are mostly “touts” masquerading as registered attorneys when in fact they are unlicensed and do not have valid practising certificates.

These perturbing revelations of dishonourable conduct threaten to erode public trust and confidence in the legal profession. One could hazard to say that the LSZ and the courts must brace themselves in dealing with more cases of such deplorable behaviour.

What is pushing these individuals to risk their reputation, committing crimes in the process, just to be called lawyers?

One may attribute this to the worsening economic conditions in the country. Others may say our education system at all levels is faulty and must be overhauled; supplanted with one stressing more on critical consciousness. For others, it is purely a matter of unbridled selfish ambition and desire for an “arrival” at success and status.

These are justifiable reasons. What they fundamentally expose is how this issue mirrors a microcosm of the macrocosm — the whole of society at large wallows in egregious levels of moral and cultural decadence. As a society, we need to reflect and collectively change our selfish, individualistic approach to life and social relations. Which is not an overnight task; but portends an end to the menace of fake lawyers with fake credentials.

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