Malawi Law Society (MLS) has said one months there has been no access to justice with the full blown judiciary strike which has paralysed the court operation, saying governments is is orchestrating the violation of human rights of its citizens and the Constitution.
The Constitution provides that suspects can be detained for only 48 hours within which time they must be brought before a court, otherwise, they must be released. This could not happen, which suggests that there must have been numerous cases of illegal detention and detention without trial.
Lawyers have warned that a lot of taxpayers’ money will be wasted in civil suits against government on this account.
In addition, the police has said their cells and prisons were reportedly congested causing outbreaks of disease, including TB. Despite this, the Police continued to arrest suspects who were not being granted bail in majority of cases.
MLS secretary Felisah Kilembe this week said there is no one to protect and enforce the Constitution.
“There are no checks and balances on the other two arms of government. Some people’s liberty is being affected by the strike as they are being kept in prison beyond the maximum period allowed by law,” Kilembe said as quoted in the press.
Observers have noted that the country is running without a fully-functioning arm of government, the judiciary – creating a constitutional crisis.
Court clerks, who began an indefinite strike at the beginning of November, are demanding pay rise and have vowed to keep striking until their demands are met.
The support staff includes court reporters that record all court proceedings, stenographers who transcribe them, court clerks, secretaries and guards.
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.”
The government through a circular proposed a 51 percent increment for the highest paid Judiciary officer at grade P2 and 18 percent for grade M.
The government’s proposal meant that a Judiciary employee who was receiving K151 323 (about $302) at grade PO/CEO would have been at par with a general civil servant at K177 980 (about $355), representing an 18 percent increment.
The Judiciary has rejected the salary hike proposal and Justice Chikopa described the revision as “unacceptable” in a letter addressed to the secretary for the Department of Human Resource Management and Development (DHRMD) dated November 24 2014.
The Judiciary has made a demand of 52 percentage points more on grade PO/CEO, which is held by resident magistrates, 34 percentage points more on grade J, 19 percentage points more on grade M and 17 percentage points more for grade N to P.
Meanwhile, no one knew when the strike might end. The DPP government has shown that it is prepared to wait for a long time before agreeing to resolve critical issues. For example, the main constituent college of the University of Malawi, Chanco remained closed for over eight months in 2011 as lecturers fought for academic freedom.
Minister of Justice and constitutional affairs Samuel Tembenu told a news conference in Lilongwe that government is committed to resolve the impasse as soon as possible.
During former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika, the Judiciary also went on strike for three months.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :