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Funding crisis cripples Judiciary

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Magistrate’s Scourts throughout the country have suspended their operations while the Supreme Court of Appeal and the High Court have slowed down activities following Treasury’s delay to disburse monthly allocations to the Judiciary for four months, The Daily Times has learnt.

Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula has since confirmed the news, describing the situation as worse in the Southern Region.

“The development has put the Judiciary in a crisis as it is failing to operate just because of lack of stationery and fuel. Court users, who want their cases to be heard, are bringing in their own stationery which our magistrates are using,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

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Mvula warned that if the situation worsens, the High Court will have no choice but to suspend Cashgate-related cases that are draining much more resources due to expenses incurred on judges’ travel and accommodation.

Meanwhile, as a result of the crisis, judicial officers have resorted to using public transport, a move Mvula said has seen one Senior Resident Magistrate in Blantyre being attacked by thugs eight times in a space of five months this year.

The Judiciary spokesperson also said higher courts received their February allocations in May, and “for March to June it’s doubtful if we will be paid considering the financial year is ending later this month.”

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Mvula said as for the Industrial Relations Court in all the three regions, their monthly budget is now pegged at K150, 000 per month while for the other courts, the figure keeps fluctuating.

Commenting on the development, Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee Chairperson, Peter Chankhwantha, said government is acting as if the Judiciary and Executive branches were at war.

“What it means is that the Judiciary is squeezing itself so tightly to honour its contractual obligations for people to appreciate that the courts are functioning,” he said.

Chankhwantha wondered why the Judiciary has to beg for resources for its activities as if it were a department under a certain ministry.

The Legal Affairs Committee chair said government is simply torturing the judicial officers which, he said, is unjustifiable, uncalled for and unfortunate.

Centre for Human Rights, Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) Executive Director Victor Mhango accused government of deliberately crippling the justice system.

He said Parliament needs to take government to task to ensure that the Judiciary is adequately funded.

“The Judiciary is operating on meagre resources and with the delay in funding, it means, there are no operations at all. No wonder they are failing to write committals and deliver them to prisons,” said Mhango.

When asked to explain reasons behind government’s failure to remit Judiciary allocations on time, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe on Saturday referred this reporter to the ministry’s spokesperson Nations Msowoya.

Msowoya promised to grant us an interview at 2pm yesterday but he did not pick our calls despite several attempts.

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