Magistrates, who are one of the poorly paid state workers, are demanding an increase of their salaries from the current US$250 per month to between US$US$600 and US$3000 – depending on the grade.
According to a proposal in Radio VOP’s possession that was sent to Supreme Court Judge, Rita Makarau who is the Acting Secretary for Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the magistrates are demanding US$600 for trainee magistrates, US$1000 for junior magistrates, US$1500 for senior magistrates, US$1700 for provincial magistrates and US$2000 for senior provincial magistrates.
The proposal sent to the JSC, signed by the acting chief magistrate, Hlekeni Mwayera, also demands US$2500 for regional magistrates, US$3000 for senior regional magistrates and deputy chief magistrates and US$3300 for a chief magistrate.
The Magistrates who have deserted the courts to press for better pay, resulting in prisoners being sent back to prison for further remand, want their salaries to be at par with their regional counterparts.
“For example, in Namibia, the lowest paid magistrate (entry level) earns R23 000 per month including car and housing allowances as compared to Zimbabwe where a magisterial assistant earns US$205,” reads in part the magistrates’ letter signed by Mwayera.
The Acting JSC secretary, Judge Makarau could not be reached for comment.
In interviews, magistrates said they would down their gavels on Monday if there is no response from Makarau.
“We want an increase of our salaries now. We are going ahead with a full blown strike action on Monday if we do not get a favourable response from the Judicial Services Commission (JSC),” a disgruntled magistrate, refusing to be named, said.
Zimbabwe’s judicial system is stricken by long delays in hearings and prisoners can spend up to two years awaiting trial because of a critical shortage of magistrates, scores of whom have migrated to neighbouring countries to escape severe economic privation.
Graduates from the University of Zimbabwe’s law department hardly spend a year with the public service as they quickly resign to join private practice where they get better remuneration.