MLS members on Monday simultaneously gathered at High Court registries in Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu to show solidarity with the protesters and help them press government to fully implement terms and conditions of service Parliament approved in 2006.
The striking staff, most of them clad in red-coloured clothes and scarves as a symbol of struggle, welcomed the lawyers who wore their professional wigs and robes. The staff sang songs targeted at some senior government officials alleged to be standing in their way.
At the Blantyre High Court, MLS president John-Gift Mwakhwawa led a procession of lawyers that slowly streamed into Courtroom One, followed by the chanting striking staff who loudly sang: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Majaji akwiya, milandu sikulowa. Kupulizoni kwadzadza [Judges are angry, no cases in court, prisons are full].Ã¢â‚¬Â
Said Mwakhwawa in his address: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We will monitor governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seriousness in implementing these terms and conditions of service. If they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, we will seriously consider a demonstration in public.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The general membership of MLS will mobilise a protest. It may not be for MLS only, but any member of the public concerned to push government to the corner in every way possible to have this implemented.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Unlike when trials are in progress, it was free-sitting yesterday as the striking staff sat in the press gallery, public gallery, witnesses box and the dock. On the other hand, Mwakhwawa and his team sat just below the bench where judges sit, facing the public gallery.
Reading a written statement signed by MLSÃ¢â‚¬â€which was also read at the other registries, the societyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s secretary Jabbar Alide said the lawyers note with great concern the effect the strike has had on the rule of law, good governance and human rights.
Said Alide: Ã¢â‚¬Å“In particular, the strike has negatively affected the right to access the courts in furtherance of civil or criminal justice; the right to an effective remedy; and the right to economic activity.Ã¢â‚¬Â
MLS feared most people in Malawi, in particular claimants and defendants, continue to be denied their right to effective remedy. The society said persons, professionals and business entities continue to be denied their right to economic activity.
Austin Kamanga, a representative of the staff, claimed that judicial officersÃ¢â‚¬â€including judges and magistratesÃ¢â‚¬â€would soon join the industrial action and are on their (the juniorsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢) side. The strike has entered a third week.
Secretary for Justice and Solicitor General Anthony Kamanga said he could not respond to concerns and threats MLS raised through the media because the Law Society knows where to channel their issues.
The Solicitor General, however, said stakeholders, including a committee from the Judiciary and government, are looking into the issue, but said there have been bottlenecks in the system that have led to failure by government to fully implement the terms and conditions of service.
Kamanga said it is not a straightforward matter because it involves Ã¢â‚¬Å“big moneyÃ¢â‚¬Â. He said government is equally concerned with persons being held in police custody without trial.
In Lilongwe, MLS vice-president Maureen Kondowe read the statement to judicial staff whereas in Mzuzu Davie Lameck did it and in Zomba Dr Mwiza Nkhata read it out.
The strike is in its third week now.