If there are groups that I have utmost respect for, one of them is the legal profession and the different levels of judges that are there. I am writing this article when it has been reported that judicial officers, including judges, were on strike. The strike has followed on the heels of a strike by “junior” judiciary staff. As I understand it, the strike arose because the Executive (ordinarily referred to as the government) was not honouring a remuneration revision package that was approved for the Judiciary several years ago. Because the government wasnâ€™t doing what was supposed to be done, hence the strike.
I have a few friends in the Judiciary. Some are close to the highest level of the system. Because of my respect for them, and because I fear it is not wise to offend the Judiciary lest you find nowhere to run when the vampire wants to suck out your blood, I have no intention to be mean. However, I do not understand why, in this country of injunctions, how come government did not obtain an injunction when junior staff started their strike. It looks silly, of course, to go for remedies to the same courts one was antagonising, but still I do not understand why this was not done.
I do not believe that people should be underpaid or what is constitutionally due to them should be unnecessarily withheld. I am, however, concerned when a key arm of government is paralysed, whatever the reasons may be. Certainly, if hospital workers were striking, someone could have obtained an injunction against such a strike.
Or, we could have been shown and told on television and in newspaper photographs and stories of people who have lost relatives because of the striking “nurses and doctors.” I am yet to read the same stories about people who are in jails unnecessarily because the Judiciary is on strike. I am not blaming the judges or the so-called junior officers. My point is: is there someone there who cares to solve the problem once and for all? The closing of the Judiciary is akin to kukankhira pumbwa pa chipwete.
Let me recognise the role that traditional and religious leaders play in solving various levels of grievances and â€˜casesâ€™. My understanding is that while the formal “Judiciary” is on strike, chiefs and religious courts are still in session as the issues that caused the strike do not concern them.
People deal with other peopleâ€™s pay in funny ways. >From 1998 t0 2000, I was working at Kamuzu Central Hospital as a government medical officer. Around this time, some of my colleagues obtained a document, on the Cabinet/ministerial blue paper. The document was directing the Ministry of Health then to propose a salary structure for government doctors. At the time lawyers in government had been approved salary top-ups. What did the Ministry of Health do? It sat on the Cabinet directive. Nobody in Cabinet, as far as we know, followed up the issue.
Quite convenient indeed.