18 magistrates quit in 2021 over poor pay: deputy chief justice

BULAWAYO – Eighteen magistrates quit their jobs in the last year and 70 other employees resigned from the Judicial Service Commission over poor pay, Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza revealed on Monday.

Gwaunza was speaking at the Bulawayo High Court during the official opening of the 2022 legal year.

She urged the government to address the low salaries of its employees so that they retain talent.

“In view of the volatile economic environment that is afflicting the country at the moment, workers especially in the public sector continue to bear the brunt and the JSC members are no exception,” Gwaunza said.

“It is therefore important that the government should constantly review the salaries of the workers so that they remain relevant in the prevailing economic situation.

“In the JSC, we have had a high staff turnover because of low salaries. During the year under review we lost a total of 88 members of staff through resignations of which 18 were magistrates. The main cause for such resignations is that of poor salaries.

“It is important that as an employer we ensure that the employees are fairly remunerated; that keeps them motivated.”

She said despite efforts by government to improve the works salaries, “the abruptly changing economic conditions have continued to dilute the positive steps taken by the government in this regard, thus, necessitating advertence to the challenge of poor working conditions again in this address.”

Gwaunza said the JSC also experienced a challenge of inadequate funding in carrying out its day-to-day activities and the construction and upgrading of infrastructure.

She said in certain instances, the judiciary has had to scale down its operations or rely on support from development partners.

Gwaunza said the Covid-19 pandemic was a major disrupter of court operations and the smooth administration of justice over the last two years and said it was critical for courts to adopt technology in their operations.

She also gave statistics of cases handled by Bulawayo courts in the past year with the Supreme Court receiving a total of 127 cases. Of those, 101 cases were cleared in 2021, leaving a total of 26 uncompleted cases.

“The High Court received 1,655 civil cases including both applications and appeals in 2021 whilst carrying forward a backlog of 73 cases. The total stood at 1,728. The court completed 1,666 cases by the end of the year leaving a backlog of 62 uncompleted cases. The backlog of cases was lower standing at 62 cases as compared to 73 of the previous year,” she revealed.

“The criminal court received a total of 2,466 cases against a backlog of 124 cases. The total workload stood at 2,590 cases. Of the 2,590 cases, the judges managed to conclude 2,559 cases leaving a balance of 31 incomplete cases.”

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