Lucia Makamure/Orirando Manwere
THE Ministry of Justice has exhausted its 2007 budgetary allocation and will only be able to adjust the salaries of striking magistrates,
prosecutors and support staff in January next year, officials revealed yesterday.
Giving oral evidence to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the ongoing strike by court personnel, the ministry’s acting permanent secretary Chisingaperi Chaitezvi and chief magistrate Herbert Mandeya said while the PSC had acknowledged the need to review the salaries, it could only do so next year due to budgetary constraints.
However, the representatives are said to have insisted on an immediate adjustment or a written undertaking by the Public Service Commission that the adjustments would be backdated to September this year.
Regional magistrates had their salaries reviewed from $40 million to over $100 million in September while those of provincial magistrates remained at $36 million.
Prosecutors and magistrates earn between $16 million and $26 million respectively, according to sources.
Mandeya said the situation at the courts was not normal as regional magistrates were working extra hours to handle cases with the help of stand in public prosecutors from the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
Meanwhile the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) has blamed government’s failure to implement provisions of the Judicial Services Act for the ongoing strike by magistrates and prosecutors countrywide.
Under the Judiciary Services Act, which was passed last year, the judiciary should be independent from the Ministry of Justice, and should be run by a commission which, among other things, should determine the terms and conditions of services.
In a telephone interview with the Zimbabwe Independent, LSZ president Beatrice Mtetwa said there was need to separate the judiciary from the Justice ministry in order to improve conditions of services for magistrates and prosecutors.
“There is need to separate the judiciary from the Ministry of Justice so that the terms and conditions of services are set by a commission for professionals in the department to get reasonable remuneration,” she said.
Mtetwa described the conditions of services of magistrates as horrendous saying these were the main cause of the mass exodus by magistrates.
“Government should arrest skills flight as we now have more inexperienced personnel in charge of our courts and this could compromise justice delivery,” said Mtetwa.