Court proceedings on a cashgate case involving businessperson Oswald Lutepo failed to resume at the High Court in Zomba following the Judiciary support staff strike currently taking place in the country.
Lutepo is being accused of theft and laundering K2.1 billion believed to have been obtained in the plunder of government funds popularly referred to as Cashgate.
People who came to witness the case in the morning were greeted with posters which the Judiciary protesters hanged on the gates at the High Court.
The Judiciary staff wants government to effect their salary increment just as that of their counterparts in the civil service.
According to Linley Hebert, a spokesperson for the striking workers, the strike is a result of the government’s failure to honor a 2012 agreement.
“In October [this year], the government reviewed the salaries of the civil servants, but we were not included in that revision. Yet in 2012, we had an agreement that each time they are revising the salaries of the civil servants, [they will be increasing our salaries as well]. So, [after adhering to the agreement in 2013], we are surprised to see that this time we are left out,” he said.
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Nations Msowoya told a local radio station it is hard for the government to meet the workers’ demand due to financial constraints following a donor aid freeze against Malawi’s government.
Msowoya said “at the prevailing economic circumstances and budgetary constraints will make a little bit difficult for the treasury to bow down to the demands [of judiciary support staff].”
It is now the second week since the strike started and discussions with government have remained inconclusive.
Human rights campaigners and legal experts say the strike is contributing to human rights violations.
“There are those people who have to be taken to court within 48 hours,” noted lawyer George Kadzipatike who works in a private practice in the northern city of Mzuzu.
“We cannot make application for them to be granted bail. There are those people who do not want to live with their partners, they would like the court to decree that they be divorced, we cannot file any petition through the courts.”
The strike has paralysed the justice delivery system as suspects continue to remain in police and prison cells awaiting court trial.
Malawi police spokesperson Rhoda Manjolo said the only option they have is “giving police bail to those with minor offenses.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :