Malawi Police in Mzuzu Friday invaded Mzuzu Court House to force judiciary support staff to either start work or leave the court’s premises.
The workers have been staging a sit-in for two weeks now demanding for house allowances and that their conditions of service be harmonised with those of judicial officers.
However, in a letter signed by Secretary to the Treasury Ben Botolo dated August 15, government says it has no obligation to make the claimed payments because there are no financial resources to cater for additional payments to the support staff.
“Government believes the strike is illegal and unless the employees return to work, it shall be compelled to take action within the law,” states the letter in part.
Around 2 pm on Friday, on lookers were surprised to see police officers converging at the court house with some in combat gear.
They held a short meeting with leaders of the support staff outside the court house.
When the leaders went inside the court to brief their fellow members of staff, they took about 30 minutes to the impatience of the police officers who started removing placards, stones and tree branches that were mounted outside court premises.
“Let us go inside!” Police Regional Operations Officer for the North Dorothy Kawale commanded her officers.
“They should go to their respective homes, or else if they want to work, let them go to their respective offices,” she said.
Immediately, scores of police officers invaded the court house while others surrounded the building.
Inside, Kawale told the judiciary support staff to leave the court premises peacefully, a call which annoyed the staff.
“We are civil servants, and we are supposed to work from 7:30 am and knock off at 4:30 pm; and yet you are forcing us to leave the premises at this time (2:15 pm). We cannot do that!” said one of the staffs’ representatives.
The situation degenerated into exchange of abusive language between the police officers and the support staff.
Following the resistance from the striking workers, police officers in combat gear started pushing the workers out of the court house.
Later, around 5:30 pm, some police officers were seen guarding the entrance to the court house indicating that judiciary guards were not available.
Similar police operations reportedly took place in Lilongwe and Blantyre.
Meanwhile, the striking workers have agreed to meet on Monday morning to map the way forward.
Government says through the August 15 letter that it is ready and willing to continue discussing the matter to find a lasting solution but it cannot do so when labour has been withdrawn.
The support staffs were receiving the allowances until early 2000 when government introduced a clean wage bill.
Judges and magistrates staged a similar strike in February following a ruling that they should be paid their allowances as determined by Parliament in 2012.
Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :