Magistrates threaten to strike

0
494

The Magistrates’ Association of Zimbabwe Friday threatened to embark on a nationwide strike beginning on Monday after negotiations for a salary increment allegedly collapsed.

The association issued a statement accusing Finance minister Tendai Biti of refusing to implement proposed salary reviews given to him by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Part of the statement read: “What is disheartening is that while our employer (JSC) literally agreed that our salaries are embarrassing and agreed to review them upwards in conformity with the budget they are given by the Ministry of Finance, it is the same minister (Biti) who has in his wisdom or lack of it adamantly refused to effect the reviews suggested by our employer.”

The association said they would not be pacified by the “capitalist approach of giving them a wage just to keep their bodies and souls together” but would demand a living wage and until that was done they would not return to work.

“We exercised our elastic patience until it snapped. We are completely disappointed and disillusioned.

“The only choice that is left open to us is to withdraw our labour and there will be no magistrates’ court sitting throughout the country,” the association said.

The magistrates further accused Biti of wishing to wage a war against the judiciary given what the association termed “a recent rabid and unwarranted attack on the judiciary in the ruling that annulled the election of the Speaker of Parliament”.

“The minister (Biti) himself is a lawyer who in the past has called for the independence of the judiciary but now that he is in power, he wants to keep the judiciary under his armpits by underpaying magistrates,” the association said.

“Why should he alone refuse to reward magistrates for the work they do when everybody else agrees that we are underpaid?” they queried.

In February this year magistrates in Matabeleland embarked on a go-slow for a fortnight, a move that seriously affected the justice delivery system.

The job action affected inmates in remand prisons whose trials could not continue or commence until magistrates resumed their normal duties.

Magistrates are demanding a salary increase that would leave the lowest paid magistrate receiving $1 000 per month.

Early this year, magistrates sent a proposed new salary structure to JSC acting secretary, Supreme Court judge Justice Rita Makarau.

They proposed $600 for trainee magistrates, $1 000 for junior magistrates, $1 500 for senior magistrates, $1 700 for provincial magistrates, $2 000 for senior provincial magistrates, $2 500 for regional magistrates, $2 700 for senior regional magistrates, $3 000 for deputy chief magistrates and $3 300 for chief magistrates.

Gweru-based magistrate Vakai Douglas Chikwekwe is president of the association.

Meanwhile, court interpreters have threatened to join the strike after their demands for salary increments were not addressed by the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affiars.

Court interpreters are demanding monthly salaries of between R7 800 and R16 500 a month which is equivalent to their South African counterparts’ monthly earnings.