Magistrates join judiciary strike

Strike by support staff in the Judiciary which started on Monday is getting bigger with the joining of all Magistrates in the country who have also downed their tools  protesting against the high gap between their salaries and conditions of service and those of High Court judges.

Several Magistrates said on Monday that they have decided to take advantage of the junior staff strike to voice out their concerns as well.

“We Magistrates are treated as dogs. There is a very big gap between our salaries and those of High Court judges. Can you imagine Magistrates have no vehicles even pool vehicles? Can you imagine Chief resident magistrate walking to court and yet High Court judges have more than two vehicles and some of their vehicles are used by wives? Is that fair,” a Magistrate told Nyasa Times.

Judges: No court activity

On average, high court judges are paid about $6 000 while junior judicial workers go home with an average of 16,200 kwacha ($100) a month.

Another magistrate corroborated and said the authorities are also not interested in training the Magistrates so that they get promotions.

“Since we graduated, most of us have never gone for further training. We have tried to apply for training but forms are gathering dust. We are not ready to resume work until we see clear direction to our future,” the Magistrate said.

While the judicial workers are on sit-in strike, the Magistrates are staying at home.

“We are not mixing with the other staff whoare striking. We are either at home or in the chamber doing other things,” said the Magistrate.

Until authorities resolve the lock-down, there will be no court activity, including bail applications and issuing of injunctions.

The country-wide “indefinite” strike started on Monday. The strike has also affected the operations of lawyers because they cannot transact any business with courts closed and Malawi Law Society president John Makhwawa said the situation will affect the delivery of justice.

“All 200 courts, from the high courts to magistrate courts, have closed down,” said Austin Kamanga, a spokesperson of the Judicial Action Group, which is spearheading the strike.

Kamanga said the workers were promised 40 percent raises in 2006 and 50 percent in 2009, but the increases were never paid.

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