Human rights organisations in Malawi on Monday expressed deep concern over the protracted industrial strike by the staff of the country’s Judiciary which they said has negatively affected the dispensation of justice and made scathing attack on President Peter Mutharika for failing to act in his capacity as leader of the country.
The organizations, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (Cedep) in a joint statement states that President Mutharika’s wait-and-see or business as usual approach in this whole saga reminisces his leadership style when he was education minister during the academic freedom saga.
“Typical of Prof. Peter Mutharika’s leadership style in the midst of crisis, with the famous academic freedom saga between 2011 and 2012 as an example, the President has been too quite over such a serious issue of national concern which does not only impinge on the citizens’ access to justice and remedies but also derails his government’s professed commitments to come to the bottom of cash gate by ensuring swift prosecution of all cashgate cases, and in the process winning back public and donor confidence,” reads the statement signed by Gift Trapence of Cedep and Timothy Mtambo of CHRR.
The organizations say much as they appreciate the country’s current worsening economic situation partly due to the suspension of donor support, they also understand that the current demands from the judiciary are just within the law, and have a strong legal and scholarly backing both domestically and internationally.
The rights activist say the issue of the judiciary strike can be easily resolved if government would consider the findings of Graham study.
“The Graham study, which was commissioned by Malawi Parliament in conformity with section 114 of the constitution and conducted by Graham and Tarr who visited all SADC member states to compare Terms and Conditions of Service for Judicial Officers, revealed that in all SADC member states, Judicial Officers are remunerated differently from the common civil service and that salaries for judicial officers are higher than those in the civil service.”
The right campaigners says in 2012 the Judiciary and executive agreed that whenever the civil service salaries are increased, those of the judiciary including the support staff should automatically go up by the same percentage in order to maintain the same salary gaps between those of the civil service and the judiciary.
“Thus, the Malawi Parliament approved the recommended salaries and since then, Judicial Officers in Malawi have been getting different salaries from the civil service. However, this was not adhered with reference to the September 2014 salary increments.”
They say further say that government needed to have adopted a holistic approach in the September hikes to avoid any section of the society to see itself as being given a raw deal as is the case in the current judicial saga.
“Mindful of such, government should not have proceeded to effect salary hikes for the civil servants if it did not have money, as claimed, since effecting such, as is the case, automatically meant the extension of the same to judiciary.”
The statement says Malawians are waiting for explanations from the leadership on a number of issues; the judicial strike, economic hard situation and the NAC-gate [cash stripping of National Aids Commission] to mention but a few.
“Keeping quiet in the face of these tough moments will not solve anything but it will rather just continue creating wounds in the already wounded citizenry and reveal to us the true leadership credential our current leadership has. It’s high time the President rose up and demonstrates mature leadership in the current crisis.”
The groups say the executive arm of government has hence the obligation to amicably engage with the judiciary in order to reach a consensus which ably represents the aspirations of an effective delivery system and respect human rights for all.
The judicial support staff started their sit-in last week demanding a pay rise from the government.
Meanwhile the judges have threatened to join the strike if the government of President Peter Mutharika does not meet the demands of its staff.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :