Swapo member of parliament in the National Council Melania Ndjago has said the country’s magistrates, whom she claims are underpaid and underappreciated, need greater pay because of the atmosphere they operate in.
Ndjago made these assertions while debating the appropriation bill in the National Council this week.
According to the information at hand, magistrates earn around N$20 000 to N$25 000 a month, including allowance.
“Magistrates carry dockets, which put them in serious danger,” said the Erongo-based parliamentarian.
“There were several instances or incidents that I have read in the media sometime back, where a house of a magistrate was broken into or burned down – if I am not mistaken – in the Oshana region, Oshakati, to be specific,” she added.
Also, she said in a separate incident a magistrate’s vehicle tyres were slashed and damaged in the Khorixas area, an indication that they are not safe.
Ndjago says some magistrates have also expressed worries to her about understaffing, which would result in one magistrate serving eight courts, causing them to be overworked.
“Our magistrates are getting lesser salaries compared to their counterparts in the SADC region. Some magistrates have also been discouraged by accusations that even legal officers and prosecutors are paid more than them,” she stresses.
She said another issue of concern is the distance travelled by magistrates with dockets to attend to cases without security.
She further claimed that after conducting research, she discovered that magistrates in neighbouring South Africa are given official vehicles and drivers and, in some cases, exempted from speed limits to protect their lives and security when travelling long distances.
She said the country’s constitution vests judicial authority in the courts and guarantees their independence.
She said it also compels all organs of the State to render such assistance, as the courts may require protecting their independence, dignity and effectiveness.
Therefore, she calls upon fellow lawmakers to help guarantee the safety of judicial officers to fulfil their mandate and work in safe environments by also allowing them to receive what they deserve in terms of funds and their salaries.