Malawi government has been told that judges, senior officers and magistrates will join the ongoing strike in the Judiciary unless Capital Hill address their demands on conditions of services and salary increment .
The judicial officers, through a steering committee on terms and conditions of service for the Judiciary, have since written the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to resolve their grievances within seven days.
Justice Lovemore Chikopa, Chairperson of Malawi Judiciary Committee on Conditions of Service said in a letter to OPC said that failure to address their grievance, they will “proceed to withhold labour.”
Among the demands are housing, motor vehicle benefits for the judges.
“We confirm that that Government has undertaken to immediately procure a new motor vehicle for The Honourable the Chief Justice. For purposes of specificity the car is a Toyota VX V8.
“We wish to reiterate however that for those of their Lordships whose motor vehicles have clocked 150000 kilometres and reached four years Government is in so far as it has not replaced such motor vehicles in breach of Their Lordships’ terms and conditions of service. It has unilaterally decided which of those terms and conditions it will abide by and which ones it will not,” reads the letter.
“For the newly appointed Judges our position remains that they are entitled to new vehicles. Interpreting the terms and conditions otherwise will result in an absurdity which could not have been intended by the drafters of such terms and conditions,” it adds.
“The Judiciary therefore feels obliged to insist that Government complies to the letter with Their Lordships’ terms and conditions of service.”
Government authorities say the failure to increase judicial workers’ salaries this year is largely because of financial constraints, following a donor aid freeze against Malawi’s government. The freeze is a result of a government financial scandal in which more than $30 million was looted from government coffers.
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Nations Msowoya told a local radio station it is hard for the government to meet the workers’ demand.
The ongoing strike is hampering progress of trials, as court operations remain suspended.
Several trials, including those in connection with the financial scandal have been indefinitely suspended.
Police are complaining of congestion in jail cells, as no suspects are being taken to court.
Inspector General of Police Lot Dzonzi said the only option they have is “giving police bail to those with minor offenses.”
Human rights campaigners and legal experts feared the current strike is impinging on the rule of law as suspects were being remanded with no warrants extended and without a right to bail or trial.-Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :