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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Malawi Courts Closed for the Second Day

Courts across the country remain closed for the second day in a strike by junior members of court staff. The staff members are striking on the grounds that their pay grades have not been reviewed since 2006 when it is supposed to happen every three years. They are looking for a 50% hike on their current pay grades.

While I understand the very real reasons that the court workers are implementing a strike, the manner in which they have done so takes absolutely no account of those who have been arrested and are spending time in prison/police cells. 

First they have chosen to do so directly after the civil service Christmas holidays. This means that there have been little to no court sittings since before Christmas and so the prisons will be swelling in numbers as the days goes by and secondly the workers have chosen to have an all out strike rather than keep a skeleton staff so that emergency sittings can be held for people who are legally entitled to bail and to release orders. At the moment some prisoners who were granted bail in mid December, without conditions are still being held in prison. Obviously this is an outrageous breach of their right to liberty but in economic terms it is also a terrible waste of government rescourses to have to house men and woman who should be free.

In the financial difficulty Malawi currently faces it would be impossible for the Government to give anywhere near such a raise in payments and the workers insist they will continue to strike until they get what they deserve so it is difficult to see where common ground can be found here. 

While this is going on the prisoners must simply wait...

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