Courts chaos as magistrates strike
by Lindie Whiz
ZIMBABWE’S court system ground to a halt on Monday as magistrates went on
strike pressing for better pay.
Magistrates currently earn between US$206 and US$300 but they want the
lowest paid magistrate on US$1,000 per month, rising to US$3,300 for the
The Zimbabwe Magistrates’ Association (ZMA) gave a 14-day ultimatum to the
Judicial Services Commission in February this year, but the government
insists that it is broke.
Before Monday’s walk-out, the magistrates had been on a go-slow for a week.
Douglas Vakai Chikwekwe, the president of the ZMA said on Monday that the
government had requested a meeting in Harare on Tuesday to discuss the pay
“We have been invited to come to Harare but we do not know the agenda,”
Chikwekwe told journalists. “If there is no traction on our demands, then
our members will not go back to work.
“We have been patient for long but now they have over stretched us and there
is no going back until they meet our demands.”
But Rex Shana, the deputy secretary of the Judicial Services Commission,
claimed they had not been given notice prior to the strike.
The strike paralysed court business countrywide, leaving hundreds of people
in remand prison after their court appearances were cancelled.
At the Bulawayo Magistrates’ Court, prosecutors took it upon themselves to
advise suspects and witnesses of a possible next remand date.
For prisoners already in remand prison, prison officers were entering
possible next remand dates on the Warrant of Detention, but the law requires
that a magistrate appends his signature on the warrant.
Police found themselves in a bind as new suspects they were bringing to
court for the first time were being referred back to police cells which are
not designed to house suspects for more than 48 hours as they do not have
the requisite facilities.
Magistrates currently earn between $206 and $236 while regional magistrates
Local junior chief court interpreters earn between $147 and $163 while a
clerk of court earns around $156.
The ZMA is demanding payment of $600 for magisterial assistants, US$1,000
for junior magistrates, $1,500 for senior magistrates, $2,000 for senior
provincial magistrates, $2,500 for regional magistrates, $3,000 for senior
regional and deputy Chief Magistrate and $3,300 for the Chief Magistrate.