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Last Updated: Monday, 31 October 2005, 19:38 GMT
Zimbabwe's judges 'going hungry'
People queuing for basic goods at a store in Harare
Basic foodstuffs are often in short supply
Zimbabwean magistrates have warned it will be difficult to curb corruption within the judiciary unless conditions of service are improved.

Many magistrates could not afford three basic meals a day, said the head of the Zimbabwean magistrates' association.

Enias Magate said some of his members were forced to hitchhike to court or travel on crowded buses with defendants they would later see in court.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has warned magistrates not to take bribes.

Correspondents say several magistrates have been taken to court this year on corruption charges.

'No excuse'

"The faces sitting in front of you are hungry faces," Mr Magate was quoted as telling Mr Chinamasa at a weekend meeting of the Magistrates' Association of Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean economy is in freefall and inflation has soared to an annual rate of 360%.

More than 75% of the population live below the poverty line and there are shortages of basic foods, such as sugar, maize meal, oil and margarine.

But Mr Chinamasa said that being poor could not justify accepting bribes.

Most magistrates are paid less than 7 million Zimbabwe dollars (US$270) a month, the association said.

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