Community Court justices demand better salaries

28 Aug 2013 05:20
By Tjikunda Kulunga
OPUWO, 28 AUG (NAMPA) – Community Court justices in the Kunene Region are calling upon Government to improve their remuneration, saying it is not compatible with their workload.
They raised this concern on Thursday in Opuwo after the regrading of salaries for most Government officials earlier this year.
Nampa visited two Community Courts in Opuwo on Thursday - the Vita Royal House Community Court and the Otjikaoko Community Court - where traditional leaders who are referred to as community court justices complained about their salaries being “peanuts”.
Initially, community justices received a salary of N.dollars 6 per hour following the conversion of traditional courts into community courts after the promulgation of the Community Courts’ Act, Act 10 of 2002.
Their payment and work as Community Court justices only started in 2010.
The amount paid per hour was raised to N.dollars 15 this year, after Government officials at different levels received a salary regrading recently.
According to Community Court justice Paulus Nambungu of the Otjikaoko Traditional Authority, the money they are being paid is not equivalent to the work or services they render to society.
“We cannot call our hourly allowance of N.dollars 15 payment because it is just too little,” charge Nambungu.
He said they are also not regarded as Government employee, which is why they are not paid well, although they solve cases and keep the peace and order in the country.
Translators of magistrates’ courts are paid better than community court justices.
A translator of local languages in a magistrate’s court is paid N.dollars 29 per hour, while a translator of foreign languages such as Spanish receives N.dollars 79 per hour.
According to Community Court justice Mika Muhenje of the Vita Royal House Community Court, there are no community justices who are happy about the current N.dollars 15 per hour allowance at all.
Muhenje furthermore called on Government to increase their transport allowances to N.dollars 3.50 per kilometre, just like Government officials who use their private cars to render Government services.
Currently, community justices are paid N.dollars 2 per kilometre for travelling to the courts and back to their villages.
Approached for comment on Thursday, the Deputy Director in the Ministry of Justice responsible for Community Courts, Amalia Nathanael said she was aware that these justices are not sufficiently compensated, despite being paid as per the prescribed amount in the Community Courts’ Act, Act 10 of 2002.
“According to the Act, community justices should be paid equivalent to the headman, or a bit more,” she noted.
Nathanael added that she proposed earlier this year already to the Minister of Justice for a new remuneration level for Community Court justices.
“It is also my cry that the community justices must get better remuneration, but it is not up to me or the Minister of Justice, but the parliamentarians,” she added.
According to her, the proposal needs to be tabled in parliament for the Act to be amended in order to increase the proposed new salary allowances for all 39 Community Court justices countrywide.
Community Courts are regarded as alternatives to magistrates’ courts, and have played a great role in the reduction of cases from magistrates’ courts’ rolls.
According to statistics from the Opuwo Magistrate’s Court, the number of cases referred from that court to Community Courts has increased dramatically over the past years.