MAGISTRATES and prosecutors across the country downed gavels this week in protest against poor remuneration and deteriorating working conditions.
The strike, which started on Tuesday, has resulted in disruptions in the justice delivery system as many cases that were set down for hearing this week were postponed.
Lawyers with cases that were supposed to be heard on Wednesday at the Harare and Chitungwiza magistrates’ courts said they were told that magistrates were on strike.
“There were no magistrates at the Chitungwiza courts to attend to our cases and we were advised to wait until the strike ends,” said one lawyer.
Zimbabwe has about 300 magistrates, although some of them are leaving the country for greener pastures.
A prosecutor who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent on condition of anonymity said the disparities in the salaries of judges, regional magistrates and magistrates has also contributed to the strike.
According to sources, a judge earns $400 million a month, a regional magistrate $200 million, a provincial magistrate $28 million, and junior magistrates $20 million.
The striking magistrates also bemoaned the government’s failure to implement provisions of the Judicial Services Act, which was enacted last year to improve conditions of service in the judiciary.
Meanwhile, in Bulawayo, sources said Prisca Dube, a senior magistrate at Tredgold Magistrates Court and Phineas Mpofu who was the senior public prosecutor (Western Division), departed during the week for “greener pastures”.
More resignations were looming, said the sources.
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa could not be reached for comment as he was reported to be out of the country.
However, Chinamasa and his permanent secretary David Mangota are on record as saying the ministry was working on a package to retain magistrates, prosecutors and interpreters.
Various government departments, particularly the education and medical sectors, have been hit by massive resignations due to poor remuneration and conditions of service.