Farai Chinyama, 22, a University of Zimbabwe law graduate and student leader, spoke to Rilwan Shittu on why law student participation in issues affecting Africa is crucial, especially as free trade agreements are set in place.
Chinyama has occupied various leadership roles as a student. She was the president of the Mooting Society, the Secretary General for the Zimbabwe Commercial Law Students’ Forum and an active member of her university’s Legal Aid Clinic and research programme.
She believes that strong alliances between law students and lawyers across Africa is imperative.
“We are better together and have a lot to learn from each other.
“Representation is easier if we come together. It could result in more student participation in real issues affecting our continent.”
With the African Continental Free Trade Agreement now a reality it would be sensible if Africa’s future legal minds were meeting now to establish relationships before business takes place in the future, she says.
“There are social and cultural advantages as well. The exchange of cultures, learning a new dance, a few words in another language, a small break from the hectic life of a law student are all part of this,” she says.
One way of doing this is through cross-border Moot Court competitions.
She represented her university at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) all Africa Moot Court Competition in Arusha, Tanzania in 2017 and Price Media Law Moot Competition in 2019 where she qualified for the University of Oxford international rounds. The exposure and meaningful connections she made at these competitions shaped her and is something in which she takes great pride.
“The ability to think on one’s feet, the team work and the ultimate win was exhilarating. I did not take a course on human rights law and these moot courts were eye-opening and educational for me.”
There are challenges in the legal education system in Zimbabwe, she says.
“The biggest stems from our economy really. At university it means big classes and sometimes the resources aren’t enough for everyone. Books and study material are expensive. Post the LLB stage, the remuneration is not encouraging and, because there are so many of us, it is competitive and difficult to get a placement in a law firm.”
Chinyama is currently undergoing a graduate internship with a law firm in Harare while awaiting graduation and then registration as a legal practitioner.
“I have a passion for litigation, corporate law practice and I enjoy legal writing. My hopes are to become a leading litigation attorney and, possibly, an academic. I enjoy learning and imparting knowledge.”
Growing up she had wanted to be a doctor.
“I went to law school because it made sense at that time, I stayed because law is a platform to help people and because half the skill required in law comes naturally to me. Hopefully soon I will be Dr Farai, except now it will be a doctor of laws and I will still save lives except now it’s likely to be many in one operation!”
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