The Malawi judiciary was completely paralysed on Monday as judiciary workers began an industrial action to press for higher pay and better work conditions.
Although the strike mainly involved the junior staff, the entire court system – from the Supreme Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Industrial Relations Court to the Magistrates Courts – was completely shut down because clerks are essential for operations of judges and magistrates.
Clerks locate case files, assign court rooms and act as court reporters and stenographers, among other functions.
“We have a shut-down across the country, nobody is working…judges, magistrates, everyone,” Austin Kamanga, spokesperson for what is being called the Judiciary Action Group, told PANA in an interview.
Kamanga said the judicial workers are demanding a review in their salaries and other perks that were approved in 2006, when they were promised a 40% pay hike, and in 2009 when they were promised a 50% raise.
He said according to the law, judiciary workers’ salaries are supposed to be reviewed every three years.
“This is an indefinite strike until our demands are met,” he said.
In Blantyre, the judicial workers converged on the terraces of the Chichiri High Court complex, chatting among themselves.
In the capital, Lilongwe, gates to the High Court and the Magistrates Court were closed and tree branches were strewn all over the place to prevent any officers from entering.
Senior judiciary officials, including Solicitor General and Secretary for Justice Anthony Kamanga and Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo, were locked in a marathon of meeting to try to resolve the lock-down.
Similar lock-downs were reported across the country.
The industrial action means that no court activity, including bail applications, will take place until the stand-off is resolved