Law society in solidarity with striking court workers

By Rebecca Chimjeka

Lawyers under the banner of the Malawi Law Society marched to the High Court registries in the country to show their solidarity to the junior judiciary members of staff who have down tools since January 9, 2012, in a bid to force government to implement a salary increment duly approved by the National Assembly and the Judicial Service Commission in compliance with the Judicature Administration Act.
Clad in red-colored clothes and scarves, a symbol associated with human rights fighting in Malawi, the lawyers delivered their petitions to Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba and Mzuzu High Courts.

Reading a press statement, MLS vice president, Maureen Kondowe said the society empathize with the striking members of staff and urged the executive arm of government to immediately take the necessary steps to resolve the matters that have led to the strike.

Kondowe said the Society has observed that the executive has not implemented in full the revised terms and conditions of services of judicial workers.

She said that the Society has noted that on 12 January, 2007, a team comprising senior judicial officers led by Justice Atanazio Tembo, SC, Justice of Appeal, met with a team representing the executive led by Principal Secretary Charles Msosa where the executive intimated that it needed more time before it provides a definitive response.

Kondowe said the said salary revisions are legal processes made under authority of law as opposed to policy.

“The Law Society wants to put it on record that the revised terms and conditions of service of the judiciary are a legal obligation and not merely a policy intervention,” the statement read according to Kondowe.

She further said that the Society notes with great concern the negative effect of the strike on the rule of law, good governance and human rights.

“In particular, the strike has negatively affected the right to access the courts in furtherance of civil or criminal justice, the right to effective remedy and the right to economic activity,” read the statement in part.

On civil justice, the Society observed that “claimants and defendants cannot pursue their right before the courts through the commencement of new cases or litigation of cases that are already before the courts”.

On criminal justice, she said persons being remanded in custody by police are not availed their right to seek bail before a court of law while on the right to economic activity she said noted that persons, professions and business entities continue to be denied their right to economic activity.

“In particular, law firms, whose core business is litigation have suffered the most since the strike started,” she said adding, “Furthermore persons and businesses are being denied their right to enforce claims before the courts and this has serious negative economic implications for the claimants concerned and on the wider economic performance of the country.”

Giving out a prayer before the meeting, a court worker, Solon Mbozi, thanked the lawyers for their support intimating, “Unity is strength. Imagine what a big river our tears would make if we all cried together”.

Spokesperson for the Lilongwe court workers Nephtalie Milanzie thrashed reports that some junior workers in other parts of the country have started working.

“There were reports last week but we have confirmed that these reports are not true,” he said.
The sit in by the judicialy junior staff has seen the Malawi courts closed for the third week running.

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