Fed up with the failure of mediation efforts to resolve their grievances, 54 graduate police officers have taken their employer to court demanding promotions and a pay rise backdated to November 1 2017.
High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Agnes Patemba said in an interview on Monday this week that the case is awaiting setting of the hearing date.
She said: “The file relating to the case has just been brought to the attention of the judge [to hear the matter] after getting it from Justice Charles Mkandawire. The case will join the queue for matters to be given dates for scheduling conferences once full business resumes.’
Mkandawire mediated the matter, but the process was terminated on November 13 2019.
Documents we have seen show that the police carried out a functional review exercise in 2017 which led to changes in grades and implementation of pay hike across the board.
However, 155 graduate police officers felt sidelined from the arrangement and their efforts to push for pay rise did not yield results, according to an affidavit filed by one of the officers, Chitenthe Kachali. The Attorney General—as chief legal adviser to the government—and Inspector General of Police are defendants in the civil case filed at the Lilongwe Registry of the High Court of Malawi.
The functional review, according to the officers’ submission to the court, saw some officers jumping two grades upwards in the set-up with, for instance, grade M officers (constables and sergeants) moving to grades L and K in that order.
Reads the documents: “Those on grade L [sub-inspector] moved to Grade J. Those on K [inspector] moved to I. Those on I [superintendents and first degree holders] were supposed to be moved to Grade G and those on Grade H were supposed to be moved on F.”
But the concerned graduates contend they did not receive any increment; hence, their decision to raise concerns with not only the Police Service Commission, but the Department of Human Resource Management and Development (DHRMD) as well. However, their efforts did not succeed.
In an interview on Monday, Kachali said they have pushed for justice since 2017 and several engagements with police management have not yielded positive results; hence, the court action.
He said initially the group comprised 155 before 100 officers opted out allegedly due to intimidation within the system while one died, leaving the group with only 54 officers.
In one of the letters we have seen, former acting Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa described the officers’ conduct as illegal.
He warned the officers that belonging to an association whose objective was to influence a review of conditions of service was against standing orders.
Besides the 54 officers, another group of graduates also emerged and recently wrote the IG to consider promoting them after acquiring higher qualifications.
In an interview on Monday, IG George Kainja said he was aware of grievances raised by the two groups of police officers and that he had separately engaged them. He said he would continue with the engagement because he appreciates what it means to go to school and upgrade while working.
He said: “Their cry has been heard in that when promotion vacancies arise, they will be considered.
“To ensure fairness, we are introducing promotion interviews and boards with full involvement of Police Service Commission. Similarly, on recruitment we are introducing the recruitment board with full involvement of the Police Service Commission.”
On the pending court case by the 54 officers, Kainja said it was up to the concerned officers to decide whether to proceed or have it sorted out outside the court.
“If they are satisfied with what we agreed they are at liberty to withdraw the case from the court. We will not persuade them for an out-of-court settlement,” he said.
But Kachali said they have no confidence in their employer on the issue; hence, taking the matter to court.
The 2017 functional review report exposed gaps in terms of qualifications in MPS and recommended the need to recruit more graduates or encourage officers to upgrade to enable police “effectively handle emerging complex and advanced crimes”.
The report showed that out of 10 764 police officers, one percent had a bachelor’s degree, 62 percent were Malawi School Certificate of Education holders, 28 percent were Junior Certificate of Education holders and eight percent possessed Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education.