Despite a call for magistrates to embark on nationwide strike action, it seemed to be business as usual at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Courts yesterday.
During a visit to the courts, a number of attorneys who had come to represent their clients indicated that respective magistrates presiding over their cases had turned up and were working as usual.
“In the court where my case is being heard, the magistrate is on contract, so he is working,” said one attorney, who preferred not to be named.
A prosecutor in the juvenile court, who also declined to be named, said while they were aware of the strike, the magistrate in their court was working as normal.
Some people attending court proceedings said they heard about the strike but it had not affected their cases.
Magistrates are demanding a single pay structure for the judiciary, one that would have their salaries and benefits put on the same sliding scale as those of judges.
A dispute over this salary increase forms part of a matter before the Constitutional Court.
The Judicial Officers Association of South Africa (Joasa) said the strike would continue for the rest of the week, unless their concerns were addressed.
Joasa president Nazeem Joemath warned that it might look like magistrates were working as usual but there were merely postponing cases as part of the strike.
However, he said they had advised their members to be responsible during the strike and attend to urgent applications such as protection orders.
He said the justice ministry should stop threatening their members by saying the strike was illegal.
Instead, he said, the department should be addressing their concerns.
Joemath complained that justice minister Jeff Radebe had promised to have a meeting with them three years ago, and they were still waiting to meet up with him.
He said Radebe had sent him a letter last Friday evening saying he was not aware of their grievances.
He insisted that they wanted to have a meeting with the Radebe and have their concerns resolved.
Ministry spokesperson Mthunzi Mhanga said acting magistrates were being appointed in order to minimize the effects of the strike. – Francis Hweshe