Disease fears in cells as magistrates strike continues

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A major disease outbreak looms in the country’s holding institutions, including police cells and remand prisons, as they are likely to remain congested following a nationwide strike by magistrates which entered its third day yesterday with no end in sight.

Although prison officials refused to comment, police spokesperson Superintendent Andrew Phiri said the situation at police cells countrywide was under control.

“We are assessing fines for some petty cases where we have jurisdiction and we are also releasing some accused persons on summons, for example Temba Mliswa,” said Phiri.

“We can also consider releasing some into the custody of their guardians in cases where juveniles are involved.”

Phiri said if the situation persisted, police would apply for authority to assess fines in cases where they had no jurisdiction in order to manage the situation.

The magistrates embarked on strike on Monday to force Finance minister Tendai Biti to release funds to their employer, the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC), for improvement of their salaries.

On Tuesday, a joint meeting by the JSC, Chief Magistrates’ Office and the Magistrates’ Association of Zimbabwe failed to yield meaningful results.

The four-hour-long meeting held behind closed doors at the Supreme Court failed to unlock the salary logjam.

Meanwhile, Justice and Legal Affairs deputy minister Obert Gutu of the MDC-T says proceeds from diamond sales from Chiadzwa mines should be properly accounted for and channelled towards meeting the salaries of striking magistrates and other civil servants.

“The solution is for the Treasury to embark on an aggressive resource mobilisation strategy to enable the national fiscus to afford to pay reasonable salaries to all civil servants, including magistrates. On this note, all revenue from diamond sales should be properly accounted for so that Treasury can obtain all the proceeds therefrom. It is does not help to have a shadowy and Mafia-like way of dealing with proceeds from the diamond sales,” Gutu said.