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Poor salaries given to magistrates and judges fuelling corruption- Biti

Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti has revealed that corruption is now rampant in the courts because of poor wages given to magistrates and judges.

Adding his voice to the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill read in Parliament on Thursday, Biti said judges were being paid ZWL200 000 (US$316 according to the official bank rate) while magistrates were earning less than ZWL100 000 (US$163) per month.

He stated that the paltry salaries were causing them to engage in corrupt activities such as receiving bribes from litigants.

“The third thing that we need to address is the conditions of service of the Judicial officers. Judges are being paid ZWL200 000 and magistrates are earning less than ZWL100 000 per month. So naturally, corruption will take root,” he said.

“State capture will take root because justice cannot be administered if the judicial officer cannot reproduce himself or herself, and any practicing lawyer or prosecutor will tell you that judicial corruption is now rampant in Zimbabwe because of the conditions of service.

“Some of the magistrates do not even have vehicles to bring to work but look at the state of our roads and congestion. That magistrate is going to be given a Honda Fit by an accused person, you cannot complain Mr. Speaker.”

The Harare East legislator added that government needed to adequately reward judicial officers starting with the Chief Justice going to the judges of the Constitutional Court.

“Many of those judges would have foregone a profitable legal career in the private sector to go to a situation where he/she cannot even afford to pay school fees for their children.

“Many of them end up being farmers but you know as a farmer that if you want to make anyone poor, you give them a farm because farming is expensive.

“In Zimbabwe, because our farmers do not have title deeds, the land is not collateralised and they have to wait for Command Agriculture which comes in unequal circumstances. So, we are exposing judicial officers to corruption.

“The Judicial Services Amendment Bill needs to address that. One of the things we could do is allow them to retain the money that is paid to them in the form of fines and so forth,” he said.

Biti further claimed that technology infrastructure in the courtrooms was poor.

“There is no WiFi at the High Court and the Magistrates Courts yet we are expecting them to go virtual. Let us invest in fibre optics so that all the courts have fibre optics and can function,” he said.

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