The instability in Zimbabwe has taken its toll on tertiary education but law remains a popular choice. Great Zimbabwe University law graduate, Kudakwashe Jacob Muzenda, spoke to Rilwan Shittu about his experience.
“A once vibrant student grant and loan system funded by government is no longer functional leaving students with the challenge of having to grapple with high learning costs sustained by low personal budgets,” says Muzenda who studied from 2014 to 2019 at the Herbert Chitepo Law School. This is part of the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) in Masvingo.
“Parents and guardians are stretched thin for funds to sponsor their children’s education. These economic challenges affect a university’s ability to offer essential services.
“In law this could be subscriptions to important databases - now more critical than ever as the legal profession evolves into a global village.”
For Muzenda, it is important to look beyond these challenges and find opportunities.
He is a firm believer in giving back and feels former students must be motivated to support current students by donating books and even establishing scholarships.
“Universities must build relationships with other universities to enable collaborations that include sharing of resources, and the government needs to prioritise education and increase its budgetary allocations towards the sector.”
Mooting has played an enormous part in Muzenda’s development as a lawyer.
“I did debating at school and joined the university debate team in my first year. However, the Dean, Mr Victor Nkiwane, initiated me into mooting. All in all I mooted from my second year up until my final year.”
There were many highlights and placings in international competitions.
“As a new law school we had no precedents in mooting to rely on, hence my pride in these achievements. I remain grateful to my coach Advocate Tawanda Zvobgo for his guidance.
“Mooting afforded me an opportunity to interface with students from all over the world and that interaction has not only broadened my vision but showed me how law students are faced with similar challenges the world over.
“For instance, in July I met 71 students from 12 different countries at a legal Ethics Training programme in Rwanda and conversations with my fellow African students showed me there are areas where we should be collaborating to achieve progress.
“Collaboration is important as it allows cross pollination of solutions to the consistent problems that African students share. It allows sharing of vital knowledge such as legal updates and opportunities. Africa must leverage on collaboration to forge ahead and this must begin with students for they are the leaders of tomorrow. We all need each other and only those opposed to development would oppose collaboration.
Muzenda decided to study law at a young age and was driven by his desire to fight for gender equality.
“As an only child I had a strong bond with my late mother. This relationship created in me a deep respect for women as I realised how often patriarchy stood in the way of women’s advancement.”
The hit Zimbabwean movie, Neria, (by the celebrated author Tsitsi Dangarembga) which portrayed a lawyer assisting a widow in winning back an inheritance stolen by her late husband’s family, was also a big part of his decision.
He says Zimbabwe has a fused legal system founded on a mixture of Roman-Dutch Law, English Law and African Customary Law and that most Zimbabwean law graduates are trained for five years.
Foreign-trained lawyers intending to practise in Zimbabwe have to obtain an exemption or sit for conversion exams. The five-year university training includes one year of work experience where the year is split in two - first with a sting in the public sector followed by the private sector.
Muzenda has joined the team at Dube-Banda Nzarayapenga and Partners, a pan-African Law firm headquartered in Harare.
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