There seem to be no end in sight to the Judiciary support staff strike, with more spanners being thrown into the works as the Executive accuses the Judiciary of ignoring an earlier agreement.
In a press statement responding to issues raised by senior Judiciary officers through a letter dated February 7 2012, government on Wednesday argued there is no basis for the strike as the Executive and the Judiciary renegotiated terms and conditions under dispute now.
Secretary for Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General Anthony Kamanga said he could not disclose contents of the letter because it is communication between government and Judiciary committees.
But it became clear on Wednesday that governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s response was not positive because, through a press statement signed by Isaac Zimba Bondo, for Principal Secretary for Public Service Management in the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC), government argues it is surprised why Ã¢â‚¬Å“non-judicial officersÃ¢â‚¬Â reacted six years later, long after the salary structure was renegotiated.
But a senior judicial officer described governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s assertion on renegotiation as a “blatant lie”, arguing there was never a time the Judiciary and the Executive renegotiated terms and conditions of service after Parliament approved them in 2006.
And Austin Kamanga, a representative of the striking Judiciary support staff, also described governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s claim as false. He argued it was not possible to renegotiate terms and conditions of service once they were passed.
He said there might have been meetings on how to implement the package, but not renegotiating. He referred to a court judgement passed in their favour that stated clearly that no renegotiations would be entertained after approval from Parliament.
Meanwhile, a Judiciary Steering Committee on Terms and Conditions of Service chaired by Judge Atanazio Tembo has been meeting from Tuesday this week at a hotel in Blantyre to chart a way forward.
Senior judicial officers, notably judges and magistrates, earlier warned government in writing that if it failed to give them a convincing response by February 9, they were going to give notice of their intention to join the Judiciary support staff strike.
The Malawi Law Society (MLS), which earlier threatened to mobilise anti-government mass protests if government failed to resolve the matter by February 9, is scheduled to meet tomorrow for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) at a hotel in Blantyre.
MLS president John-Gift Mwakhwawa confirmed the EGM in an interview yesterday, disclosing that items on the agenda include the ongoing judicial strike that has paralysed delivery of justice and the physical attack on private practice lawyers.
Government, in yesterdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s OPC statement, argues that ParliamentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s approval process of conditions of service that included a salary structure for judicial officers was not compliant with the Public Finance Management Act of 2003 because the Minister of Finance was not fully consulted.
In a related development, the Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU) has accused government of lacking seriousness in resolving the strike, arguing since the strike started, government has met with the representatives of the striking workers only once.
Austin Kamanga confirmed that since the strike started, government has met with a Committee on the Judiciary Condition of Service only once.