Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Without a Working Judiciary, Malawi is Normal Again

Two eyes.
Two feet.
Two hands.
Two ears.

It is easy to discover the matter: normalcy.

When the bird's day is past and gone, and when the day is so lonely and cold, there is always one thing to do: rest, or sleep the night away, until the wing of light waves again, and forces the dark-some night into some form of nature-instigated exile in the West.

It is still in exile the night goes to; though not the type of exile the likes of Malawi's one-party regime Prisoner-of-Conscience, Jack Mapanje, were subjected to during the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) regime.That time (during the MCP era), to live was trouble, to die was trouble, to have no children was trouble, to be an expectant mother was trouble, to marry was trouble, to be a spinster or bachelor was wrong. To be was wrong, and to be not was wrong. To be Malawian, then, was tough, and not to be was nothing but losing out.

So, people- the likes of Mapanje- languished in, what?, jail. Should we call it jail, when the 'victims' of the regime, then, lived 'ignorant' lives? For once, there was nothing like being notified of the reasons why the 'suspects' were being held.

In more cases than not, people could wait for justice- without being told what wrong they committed against the powers-that-be. They could wait for days on end, waiting for the bright wing of justice; a wing that, often, never came.

So, a man could be eating Nsima, (Sadza, is it?), porridge, or drinking local sweet beer (thobwa) in the presence of himself, children, or relatives. Before the food settles in the stomach, there would be a knock on the door, people unknown, people in uniform, the famous red uniform that sent people into mind exiles, well before they were sent to the real jails.

Life was dangerous, then, because your husband, wife, first-born son, last-born daughter, tenant, landlord, landlady, and others of their like, could be an informant (no, the word spy is not good. Yes, informant is better, for that's what they were)- the Judas that played it openly and shamelessly. They called it duty to the nation. A nation premised on the four corner stones of Loyalty, Obedience, Unity, and Loyalty.

So bad that, for some people, days and nights could come and be gone without them noticing. All because the holding cells were so dark light-skinned people got tainted by the darkness, and came back home (after weeks, months, or years) in the dungeon) darker than Mwanza charcoal!

But the birds were free, relatively free. They could go and come as they pleased. The birds.

The birds could manage, also, to be in pairs, two-two: husband and wife. Do birds date, then court, after that marry?

Whichever case, they were free to be in twos, and live freely- without the fear of the wife, neighbour, sibling, landlady, landlord, and the dreaded Youth Leaguers.Nothing wrong with birds in twos: don't they say it is natural to copulate (in the manner so accepted by a given society, and according to the moral principles upheld by the individual whose discretion it is to 'do' what they please?).

But it is not only the birds that could, and still can, be seen in twos: husband and wife, and and girl friend (what? Do we have 'girls' among the birds? Do we have 'boys'?)

Goats, sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, among others, could be seen in two as well- in those, and these, days. Just that the birds and the sheep and the dogs and the cats could not hold hands- as humans did, or do. So much for human hands. They (hands) can hold people together, and be a sure sign of love, especially when people, hand-in-hand, walk together in the middle of a confusing, busy road.

The same hands can be a symbol of oppression. In the past, their was Nyakura , people's hands tied at the back- tightly. Painfully. That was the treatment, then. Treatment made possible by the weakness of hands. Rather, by the design of hands.

Wait a minute. We were supposed to talk of how, without a working judiciary, Malawi is 'free' and back to normal!

Yes, that is right. And that's what we are doing.

Malawi's junior judicial workers have been on strike for three months now- beginning from 9 January 2012- and have since been joined by Magistrates, judges, Justices of Appeal, and all who make the judiciary (one of the branches of government) tick.

Malawi is in a loud crisis.

Government spokesperson, Patricia Kaliati, told Zachimalawi today that government is doing all it can to bring the striking judicial workers back to work.

"Malawians should not panic," Kaliati said today, when asked about progress on the issue.

A striking judiciary means angry citizens. There is the anger of deceased estate beneficiaries to take care of. These people, who depend on the Registrar General's office- while the Registrar General's office depends on the High Court of Malawi to have some important documents signed- have nowhere to go now.

Some need the money for school fees. Which means, due to the judicial strike, some pupils and students have been denied the right to learning. Yet this right is Constitutionally-established.

Other people, the less privileged in society, are languishing in police holding cells. They have no voice and can, therefore, not free themselves from their 'bondage'. But the well-to-do are finding their way out of police holding cells.

They have money. Their money is the way. The way to freedom.

But the poor, languishing in Malawian cells, only have a voice.

And the voice is not money.

And can, therefore, not 'bail' them out of police holding cells.

These people will, thus, have to wait for justice.

In other words, they have to wait for justice to be done to those who administer justice.

Lawyer-cum-politician/activist Ralph Kasambara has already called the situation precarious.

Kasambara said this is a sure sign that government has abdicated on its responsibility. That is why, speaking to local media some four weeks ago, he asked the president (Ngwazi Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika, Chitsulo cha Njanji, Mwana wa kwa Goliati, Tate wa University of Science and Technology in his home district of Thyolo) to resign.

Kasambara was Attorney General when the issue of raising salaries for judicial workers was being discussed in 2006. He was on the government side, and knows terms of the agreement.

But Ephraim Chiume, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, maintains that government negotiated with the judicial officers on a remuneration package that could not create artificial salary disparities among civil servants.

"The salary increments were for judicial officers only. And, then, the government negotiated with them on a 'fair' salary structure which they agreed to. That is he salary structure we have been using since 2006. Why should they query now? Why all this time?" Chiume, with so many unanswered questions in his mind, asked aloud.

Some questions are better-hidden, in deed.

So, the strike continues. People continue to suffer.

But, more importantly, other than having three branches of government- the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary- Malawi has two functional arms, technically. These are: The Executive Branch of government, comprising of the State President, Cabinet Ministers, and Civil Service administration, and; the Legislature.

In 2006, the Legislature approved salaries for judicial workers, having received the papers from the Executive. Didn't the Executive know what it was doing, processing all that paper work through the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, presenting it to cabinet for assessment and deliberations, sending it to the National Assembly (Parliament, to be specific, since the National Assembly is a broad term, and includes the Speaker of the National Assembly and the State President himself. People should not inter-use the term Parliament with the National Assembly. The technical differences are so distinctly clear and white you would trace them from a far) to be made (read, rubber stamped) into law, before going back to the President for that final signature that sends some unfortunate people to the gallows.

Everything was well known and understood, according to Chiume, and that is why government went back to the drawing table, decided it had been hoodwinked into making very useless a law, and opened negotiations. The judicial workers accepted, even though the Malawi Law Society (yes, the very same selfish Malawi Law Society that has barred members of the general public from visiting its resource centre by introducing a prohibitive K200 fee for entry. It does not matter you just want to read a newspaper, or outdated magazine. The Malawi Law Society, like lawyers, is there to make money. Period!) has gone to court, demanding that government pays up according to the dictates of the 2006 law.

Now, a case in which lawyers are going to the courts to force government to pay up to the very same judges and magistrates who will preside over the case is an interesting one. How do you preside over an issue you are interested in? Where is the impartiality? The professionalism? Why not hire foreign judges (say, from the Southern African Development Community, or Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, even from the African Union) to preside over the case so that local lawyers may, at last, maintain their semblance of objectivity and independence?

The short of it is that judicial workers agreed to the new terms, and it is strange that, all of a sudden, they have 'discovered' that they were dubbed!

It must be greed.
It must be selfishness.
It must be nothing.

Now, if you want new perks and the employer does not want to pay you, why not resign and go for greener pastures? What makes them stick around?

There must be something in the 'empty' tin: air.

Still, the question arises, how is this related to normalcy?

It boils down to the same issue of birds, and nature. Often, there is a member of one sex, and a member of the other. Husband and wife. Boy and girl-friend. There is, somehow, always an Adam and Eve.

And Adam (one) plus Eve (two) equals two. Two people.

Adam-bird plus Eve-bird equals two birds. There is always one sex, and the other: two sexes. Never three.

Why? Two is natural. With two, procreation is possible. With two, idea-sharing is possible. Without two, companionships are born.

With two, you will never be alone. Of course, some people are said to still feel 'lonely' in the midst of a noisy crowd. It's an exception. An exception to normalcy.

Life experience has proven that two is great.

Which brings us to our issue of the judicial strike in Malawi making things 'so' 'normal'. Even more than normal.

When so many things, in the world, are premised on twos, why have three branches of government? This must be so unnatural. This must be strange.

The on-going judicial strike has, therefore, normalised the situation in the life of the ordinary Malawian.

No one has, of yet, died of 'judicial strike' disease. Malawians continue to eat Nsima and drink water.

President Bingu wa Mutharika continues to rule, making sure the Malawian people get the basic necessities in life.

Members of Parliament continue to meet in Lilongwe (at the New Parliament Building constructed by our good friends, the great people of Mainland China).

Above all, the rains continue to fall.

In fact, Malawi has been experiencing more than enough rains since the day the junior judicial staff workers went on strike, and the rains have intensified since the judicial workers (the big people in the judiciary) joined the strike on Friday last week.

It must be normalcy. It must be normalcy.

(With the Judiciary and Executive branches still working), two must be good.

Malawi has gone back to two, the basic unit of life. Malawi is, more than ever before, the Warm Heart of Africa it has never been.

It makes two hearts to fall for each other. And two hearts to conspire.

Normalcy never comes in bits of three!!!

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