Malawi judicial strike shuts down courts

2012-01-09 22:06

Blantyre - Some 2 000 Malawian judicial workers on Monday brought courts to a standstill with the start of a strike over work conditions and pay, a spokesperson said.

"All 200 courts, from the high courts to magistrate courts, have closed down," said Austin Kamanga, a spokesperson of the Judicial Action Group, which is spearheading the strike.

"We are fighting for new conditions of service which were approved by parliament in 2006."

Parliament approved a 40% pay hike in 2006 and another 60% in 2009, but none of these had been implemented, the group claims.

"The strike will be indefinite until our demands are met. The new conditions of service are to the benefit of everybody, from high court judges to the junior staff," Kamanga told AFP.

"Our conditions of service are supposed to be revised every three years and are approved by parliament. Once parliament approves, the executive is supposed to implement without questions asked."

On average, high court judges in the impoverished southern African nation are paid about $6 000 while junior judicial workers go home with $100.

Anti-government protests and stay-aways brought the country to a standstill last year.

At least 19 people were killed during a police crackdown on demonstrations against President Bingu wa Mutharika's government in July, and more than 275 people were arrested across the country.

In September a coalition of civic groups organised a two-day stayaway to pressure Mutharika into making greater economic and democratic reforms.

Malawi's economy has been hamstrung by suspension of donor inflows to the budget.

Donors, who provide 40% of the development budget that also pays salaries for the country's nearly 170 000 civil servants, wait for the IMF green-light in order to resume budget support.