Address judicial workers concerns – rights campaigner

Human rights defender Ken Williams Mhango has called upon authorities in the country to respond to calls by judicial staff who are currently on strike, demanding improvement of their work conditions.

The workers started boycotting their jobs on January 9 following government’s failure to implement new conditions of service as approved by Parliament in 2006.

Mhango wondered why, despite the strike, the executive arm of government has remained silent.

Mhango: The executive should address the concerns of judicial workers

“Let [the Chief Justice] Lovemore Munlo or the Minister of Justice [Ephraim Chiume] respond to the calls,” Mhango told Nyasa Times. “They must explain where the money has been going all these years.”

Among others, the judicial workers are demanding a review in their salaries and other perks that were approved in 2006, when they were promised a 40 percent pay hike, and in 2009 when they were promised a 50 percent raise.

Mhango further demanded that as the judicial strike continues to paralyse delivery of justice across the country, government must pay these people with immediate effect for them to get back to work.

Recently, Malawi Police Service spokesperson Dave Chingwalu disclosed that the situation has resulted in the congestion of the country’s cells and his counterpart, Evans Phiri of the Malawi Prison Service echoed his sentiments.

Mhango described the situation as very unfortunate, saying: “There are some prisoners who were due to be released by the same courts which are shut down and this is total abuse of human rights.”

He said it was sad that while the judicial staff has been pressing for “their money” over the years, government was busy purchasing new vehicles, Members of Parliament were receiving advance gratuity and the country’s First Lady Calista Mutharika was “unconstitutionally getting a hefty salary with arrears”.

“This is the time when our MPs should put the plight of other Malawians at heart. Where are the opposition legislators? Let them stand up and speak for the welfare of their colleagues in the judicial system.”

He further urged the Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU), his fellow human rights activists and religious leaders, among others, to come in and help the striking judicial workers to have their voices heard.

“These people should not only be there when it comes to political benefits and as a labour body, MCTU should have been on the front because this issue is not only judicial.

“Why should MCTU be quite when some of their employees are suffering? These people have a cause. Where is the spirit of solidarity?” questioned the award-winning human rights defender.

Furthermore, claiming that there were some illegal immigrants, among them Ethiopians, who were supposed to be released by the closed courts but were still in police custody, Mhango said “diplomats and international courts should also intervene.”

Describing the situation a human rights matter, he went on further to call upon the EU, Germany, Britain, the US, Norway and other governments that are concerned with human rights to step in.

The striking judiciary staff spokesperson Austin Kamanga has maintained that the status quo will remain until government responds positively.

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