Angry magistrates demand Mugabe’s resignation

HARARE - Opposition to President Robert Mugabe's rule grew this week when angry striking magistrates and parastatal workers said he headed a dictatorship and should resign.

The challenge came from workers at quasi-government company, Kingstons, where workers have been staging a “sleep-in” for the past two weeks, three days after the National Constitutional Assembly called on Mugabe to resign and were clobbered in police custody after attempting to stage a demo along a street used by visiting South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Striking magistrates added to the clamour for Mugabe to step down and complained that the government had shown contempt for the rule of law by refusing to address their concerns.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice heard testimony last week from Chisi Chaitezvi, the acting secretary in the Ministry of Justice, that government was broke and could not afford to award the striking magistrates a pay hike until January.

Chief Magistrate Herbert Mandeya told the Parliamentarians that the strike was a disaster for the justice delivery system and said “people are rotting in police cells” because there was no remand magistrate.

The strike has entered its third week since it commenced over salary differences between regional magistrates and chief law officers, who earn Z$90 million and $140 million respectively, while provincial magistrates earn a paltry $20 million.

David Mangota, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice, has taken a hard-line position and threatened to fire all the striking magistrates and prosecutors. They have dared him execute his threats.  Judge President Rita Mukarau has slammed Mugabe for undermining the judiciary by starving it of resources and reducing it to “begging for its sustenance”.

“It is my view that the place and role of (the) judiciary in this country is under-appreciated,” Makarau said in a speech to mark the opening of the first term of the High Court this year. “It is wrong by nature to make the judiciary beg for its sustenance. It is wrong to make the judiciary beg for resources from central government. It is wrong to make the judiciary beg from any other source,” Zimbabwe’s first woman head of the High Court said. – Chief reporter

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