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Magistrates return to work

Lucia Makamure

MAGISTRATES and prosecutors this week returned to work after three months on strike pressing for better salaries and working conditions, but the judicial

delivery system remained paralysed as court support staff continued with the industrial action.

The judicial officers were last week awarded a 3 000% salary hike by the government with effect from this month, but salaries for court clerks and interpreters were not reviewed.

A magistrate based outside Harare told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that the judicial officers went back to work on Monday after signing papers committing themselves to their jobs.

“Our colleagues in Harare were coerced to sign papers agreeing to go back to work. But what the government failed to realise was that the courts cannot operate without the support staff,” said the magistrate who asked for anonymity.

After the recent salary increments, a chief law officer now earns a basic salary of $661 million plus $78 million and $88 million in transport and housing allowances respectively.

A junior magistrate now earns a basic salary of $441 million plus $78 million and $88 million in transport and housing allowances respectively.

A magistrate in Bulawayo said the crisis at the courts could only be resolved if the government awarded a salary increase to the support staff.

“We have returned to work, but the courts cannot operate as long as the clerks and interpreters are still on strike,” the magistrate said.

On Monday, the Justice ministry secretary David Mangota urged all the striking magistrates, prosecutors and support staff to return to work.

The state media quoted Mangota confirming that government had awarded judicial officers substantial pay increases with effect from this month.

“The issue which had caused officers and some employees of the Ministry to go on strike is accordingly, a non-issue now,” Mangota told the Herald.

However, Mangota at that time dismissed media reports at the weekend that magistrates and prosecutors were awarded a 600% salary increase, saying the figures released were not authentic.

Mangota also said government had decided to pay the judicial officers half of their salaries mid-month and the remainder towards the end of the month.

Judicial officers and their support staff downed their tools in October in protest against low pay thereby paralysing the judicial system as several court cases had to be postponed.

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