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Ministry delays decision on judiciary saga

Months after judiciary support staff started pushing for housing allowances, it has transpired that the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development is yet to make its position on the matter after the Judicial Service Commission wrote it early this year.

Judiciary Members of Staff Trade Union had been pushing for the same before the 2017/18 budget was passed.

“Despite being told that the issue was taken to the Ministry of Finance, nothing has been done. The Ministry has not made its position clear [and] that is why we are continuing with the process of engaging a conciliator. We were supposed to start this week but we have failed. We should be able to start the process next week,” said Andy Haliwa, spokesperson of the Union in an interview on Thursday.

The staff were set to start a sit-in in May but, a day before the strike, the Executive arm of the government obtained an injunction restraining them from going ahead with their plans.

“We will be able to state the next course of action after the conciliation process,” Haliwa said.

Ministry of Finance spokesperson, Alfred Kutengule, said the Ministry is looking into the issue.

“The matter is still under discussion. We are trying to see how best it can be resolved,” Kutengule said.

He neither mentioned the stage of the discussions nor time frame attached to such a process.

Last month, Judge Charles Mkandawire discharged government’s injunction but advised the two parties to engage a conciliator. Mordercai Msisha was nominated for the role.

Documents we have seen show that, long before the decision to stage a strike was made, the support staff were pushing for the ministry’s action on the issue after they were told that the Judicial Service Commission sought guidance.

On March 20, 2017, the union’s president, Charles Lizigeni, wrote Judiciary Conditions of Service Chairperson, Judge Rezine Mzikamanda.

In the letter, he said the union was expecting a positive response from the Ministry of Finance.

“You may recall my Lord that in our previous meeting, we resolved to have feedback as regards the above issue in 14 days, and we are privileged to have met the Registrar who briefed us on progress on the same. He has briefed us that a submission from the Judicial Service Commission has been sent to the Ministry of Finance for consideration…,” reads Lizigeni’s letter.

Lizigeni indicated in letter that he hoped the commission had raised the fact that there were funds amounting to K240 million in excess from personal emoluments, which they believed would be used for the housing allowances.

Minutes of a meeting held on April 4, 2017 show that Lizigeni suggested that they should follow up with Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe.

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