Weekend Nation established during the week that government has to cough K1.2 billion (about $7.2 million) as of December 2011 if it is to pay the judicial officers and the striking support staff their arrears dating back to 2006 as was approved by Parliament.
The judicial officers, through a steering committee on terms and conditions of service for the Judiciary, have since written the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and Parliament, demanding a response on their grievances by February 9 2012.
A highly placed senior judicial officer confided in Weekend Nation during the week that letters to OPC and Parliament were despatched last week Friday. The Judiciary demands to be informed whether government will pay them their arrears.
The source said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have candidly stated that we expect this response by February 9 2012. If government comes out clear to state it will not pay us, we will on February 13 2012 give government a 21-day notice of our intention to go on industrial action as labour laws demand.
Austin Kamanga, who is leading a three-week old industrial action of the support staff, confirmed on Friday of the judgesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and senior officersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ intention to down tools. Kamanga said he had a meeting with his superiors this week where his team was briefed on their intentions.
He said they were also told of memos to government.
Kamanga confirmed that the arrears for the entire Judiciary as of December last year were at K1.2 billion, arguing if government were serious, it would have at least made a commitment to pay part of it and precisely indicate in writing when it would finish paying.
He said better still, government should have started paying immediately the terms and conditions of service for the Judiciary approved in 2006.
The highly placed source said the judges were not on strike, but have been involuntarily put in an awkward situation because they need services of the court marshals, reporters and clerks to deliver their services.
The source said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Our action is conditional; it will depend on their response. If they say they are not paying the arrears, we have no other option but to notify them of our intention to go on strike.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We believe we have been taken for granted for too long. In 2006, we had our terms and conditions of service reviewed and approved by Parliament, but we were never paid until 2009 when there was supposed to be another review which happens after every three years.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“In 2009, the review never took place and no communication from Parliament was made to us. Here we are in 2012 when we are supposed to have another review and there is no communication.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The senior judicial officer feared the current strike is impinging on the rule of law as suspects were being remanded with no warrants extended and without a right to bail or trial.
The source said the ExecutiveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s failure to pay them and the fact that they are controlling the purse despite ParliamentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s approval, was seriously affecting the independence of the Judiciary as others would want to work in a manner to please the Executive.