High Court judge Charles Mkandawire on Monday surprised a packed courtroom when he asked the clergy to pray for the government to find enough resources to buy him a vehicle and hire a driver.
The judge, who entered the courtroom later than scheduled, was presiding over a case where Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Synod of Livingstonia has taken to court its Kanengo congregation faction to stop using its building in Lilongwe.
Judiciary conditions of service stipulate that a Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal judge is entitled to a Toyota Prado VX while a High Court judge is entitled to a Toyota Prado TX. The vehicles are supposed to be replaced when mileage clocks 150 000 kilometres or three years.
However, government has said it cannot afford to buy the 36 vehicles for judges which at the start of negotiations with the government last year would have cost about K1 611 022 629 ($2,876,826), including duty, according to a quotation from Toyota Malawi.
The judge’s concern has come at a time when Parliament has confirmed that the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) gave them the go-ahead to procure vehicles for the offices of the Speaker and leader of opposition at a time when there was an asset purchase freeze last year because the officials had no vehicles.
But Mkandawire told the court he has not been allocated a vehicle for close to a year now and he could no longer use his personal vehicle for official purposes.
He said: “I have no transport to take me to the office. Government is supposed to give judges a car and a driver it has not up to now. I have sacrificed my car for one year now and I have reached a point that I cannot do it anymore. This morning, the vehicle had to go for family issues and I could not come before 9am.”
To a roar of laughter from the packed courtroom, the judge said: “I hope the church will pray that the economy improves and the government gets me a car.”
Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula on Tuesday confirmed that government was yet to purchase new vehicles for judges because no agreement has been reached with the Judiciary.
He said: “We are yet to procure new vehicles, most of the vehicles our judges are using are four years old and have reached 150 000 kms contrary to provisions in their conditions of service.”
Mvula said the government had informed them that it could not afford to finance the purchase of the new vehicles for judges, but Parliament was given the go-ahead.
However, he said negotiations on judges’ perks were still ongoing with the government.
Apart from demands for new vehicles for judges and free housing, the Judiciary also wants salaries for judges adjusted, proposing that the Chief Justice’s current salary of K1.5 million ($2,679) be increased by 75 percent to K2.6 million ($4,643), an appeal judge to have a 110 percent increase and a 78 percent increase for High Court judges and the registrar. n