Judges Plead Guilty Over Loan Payment Defaults

Harare, October 22, 2015 – Zimbabwean judges have pleaded with officials at one of the country’s financial institutions to spare blacklisting them from accessing loans from the bank after they defaulted on servicing personal loans.

Most of the country’s judges have been left in a fix as they owe MBCA Bank loan arrears varying from $416 to $1 764 after their employer failed to remit deductions on their salaries to the financial institution.

Although the Salary Service Bureau (SSB) has been deducting money from the judges’ salaries every month, it has not been remitting the deductions to the bank to service some loans that they accessed from MBCA Bank which is owned by Zimbabwean and South African shareholders.

The default by the SSB recently prompted MBCA Bank to hold an emergency meeting with the judges, where some bank officials protested against the non-payment and servicing of the loans advanced to the judges.

“Because of the non-remittance, loan repayments are over 60 days in arrears for virtually all the judges, except for a few whose salaries are disbursed through the bank,” reads part of some minutes recorded during the meeting held at the High Court recently.

MBCA Bank officials who attended the meeting with High Court Judges Justice Joseph Mafusire and Lavender Makoni, the representatives of the Zimbabwe Judges Association (ZIJA), warned that the judges’ failure to service the loan arrears could affect the credit ratings of individual judges.

“Prospects of getting top-up loans or mortgage facilities whilst the arrears are still outstanding are remote,” the bank officials said.

The bank officials disclosed that that they had restrained themselves from handing over the judges’ accounts for collection by their lawyers as is the bank’s standard procedure as they were over 30 days in arrears.

On their part, Mafusire and Makoni asked the MBCA Bank officials not to ban judges from accessing loans from the financial institution because of the “unfortunate situation of the judges”.

Their (judges) credit ratings should not be affected by what is currently prevailing…..Judges guard jealously against their honour and integrity……Most judges have been eagerly waiting for top-up loans or the mortgage facilities,” pleaded the judges.

The government practice of not remitting deductions from salaries has not only affected judges but other civil servants as well, who hold accounts with clothing retailers and other financial institutions.

Zimbabwean judges have in recent years expressed concern over poor working conditions. Recently, the judges, who have since 2011 been complaining about poor working conditions demanded a meeting with their employer, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to discuss poor salaries, poor apparel, old computers and outdated library materials and resources.

The judges said the government’s failure to adjust their salaries had left them depressed and frustrated.

In 2011, Judge President Justice George Chiweshe gave judges a dressing-down after reading the riot act to them over scruffy dressing and delinquency. Chiweshe said he was concerned that judges were wearing creased jabots.

But in response, the judges demanded to be supplied with suits to give a facelift to their dressing. The judges implored the JSC to supply them with three suits, five shirts or five blouses and three pairs of shoes per year.