THE strike by magistrates, prosecutors and other court support staff entered its fourth month this week with no solution in sight.
=justify>According to sources at the Bulawayo courts, a meeting that was scheduled for this week between Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs officials and representatives of the striking civil servants was postponed to Monday.
“Our representatives were supposed to meet with the responsible authorities on Wednesday in order to find a solution to the crisis at the courts, but the meeting has been postponed to Monday,” said one of the sources.
The sources said the courts were being presided over by a single magistrate since nine weeks ago.
Bulawayo’s main courts — Tredgold Court and Western Commonage — were operating below capacity. The situation was the same at courts in Harare and other provinces throughout the country.
Magistrates and Prosecutors across the country downed tools in October in defiance of poor remuneration and poor working conditions.
The strike has resulted in disruptions in justice delivery as many cases, which were supposed to have been heard last year, were still pending before the courts.
A prosecutor who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent on condition of anonymity said the disparities in the salaries of judges, regional magistrates and magistrates also contributed to the strike.
The sources in the judicial system said a judge is earning $400 million monthly, a regional magistrate is getting $200 million while a magistrate was only getting $20 million.
The poverty datum line for an average family of five is over $100 million according to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe.
Magistrates and prosecutors are demanding a 900% hike in their salaries and have vowed not to return to work until government reviews their salaries.
The Justice ministry last year said it could not address the issues raised by the magistrates and prosecutors as it had already exhausted its budget and could only make adjustments this year.
As a result of the strike, hundreds of detainees in the country’s remand prisons have been left stranded while detainees who, under the constitution, should only be held for 48 hours are now spending much longer in detention.
Permanent secretary in the Justice ministry David Mangota declined to comment on the ongoing strike.