- High Court of Malawi and Supreme Court judges are demanding a 400 percent salary and benefits increase to meet the escalating cost of living but government says the demands are unjustifiable and unrealistic.
Sources in the judiciary told 'The Chronicle' that the judges and top government officials have been meeting in Blantyre and Mangochi in a bid to settle the issue amicably as the judges are threatening to strike should government fail to meet their demands.
Currently the judges receive over Malawi Kwacha 300,000 a month in salary and other benefits. Should government accept their demands, the judges will now be receiving over K1.2 million per month.
"The judges want their housing allowance to double so that it is K100,000 and other benefits to go up as well, which the government just cannot afford. But the government is still negotiating with them," said the source.
The source said that it is surprising that the judges are asking for a 400 percent pay and benefits hike when the government automatically increases their salaries every three years.
The source said the government has asked the judges to wait for next year's budget because, raising the salaries and benefits now would negatively affect the 2005/2006 budget which parliament already passed last year.
High Court of Malawi and Supreme Court of Appeal Registrar Sylvester Kalembera said he is not aware that the judges are demanding a pay and benefits hike.
"We have had internal meetings yes, but not to do with what you are talking about. It is not true that the judges are asking for salary increases, I have not heard about that," said Kalembera. Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Henry Phoya also said he was not aware that the judges are demanding the salary and benefits increase.
"I am in government. I have not heard anything. I am sorry, I cannot help you because what you are saying is not true," said Phoya.
Asked if the government would effect the 400 per cent salary and benefits increase if demanded by judges, Phoya answered: "They have not demanded this. My comment would only come if they make such a demand." But our source said a high powered government delegation has been meeting the judges the whole of last week to resolve the issue amicably.
"The judges are demanding a 400 per cent salary increase, this is true," our source insisted when contacted again to tell him that both the Registrar of the High Court of Malawi and Supreme Court of Appeal and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs have denied that the judges are demanding a hefty salary hike.
In 2005, the judges went on strike to press government to buy them good vehicles, arguing that the executive was driving better vehicles than themselves.
The government gave in to the demands and they called off the strike. Our source said judges are supposed to be paid well to avoid corruption in the judiciary.
Malawi has over 10 judges for both the High Court of Malawi and the Supreme Court of Appeal.
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