K54 million compensation: Tussle over lawyer’s involvement

Malawi Government and the children of the late Mr and Mrs Joseph Makala are tussling over the involvement of a lawyer in the long awaited K54 million compensation meant for the children after losing both their parents on Lake Malawi in 2000.

Government says it is happy that the coming in of the lawyer will conclude the matter which has stalled since 2007 when there was Presidential directive and Ombudsman determination to compensate the children.

On the other hand, the children are against the involvement of the lawyer, Isaac Kamunga of P&S Associates arguing he is son in-law to their aunt who they do not want to represent them.

Five children whose parents died on Lake Malawi when the boat they used capsized before they boarded MV Ilala on October 20 2000 are accusing government of playing games to pay them the compensation despite the Ombudsman’s determination and Presidential directive in 2007.

Malawi Kwacha

Malawi Kwacha

Since 2007 the two sides have been dragging each other’s feet to resolve the matter but failed because the children protested against the involvement of their Malawian aunt while government maintained that the aunt was necessary to be involved since the children are in Zambia.

The coming in of the lawyer gives a sigh of relief on the part of government as it believes will conclude the payment process which stalled for many years.

“We are in the process of paying the compensation. The wrangle between the children and their aunt is still on but the aunt is now acting through a lawyer in Blantyre. So we are dealing with the lawyer. We told the lawyer to do final assessments. We also want it to be official. In fact, she started dealing with the lawyer long time ago,” said Makuzula.

Makuzula said the lawyer will handle the children who are based in Zambia.

“He will call them and administer the money in a legal way. We see that approach helpful. The children have a right of claim. It is their parents that died,” he said adding that although the children may cause more trouble they would eventually appreciate the role of the lawyer.

One of the children, Catherine Makala said in an interview from Zambia that the lawyer engaged, Isaac Kamunga is Minofu’s son in law. Catherine doubted if justice would be done in the administration of the money.

“That is not right. Why should the director adhere to what she wants and not what we the beneficiaries want?” wondered Catherine.

But Makuzula said government needed to deal with somebody from Malawi.

The children approached President Joyce Banda early this year for help after getting tired of no help since 2007 when the late president Bingu wa Mutharika gave a presidential directive that government should pay the compensation.

President Banda assured the children that the matter would be handled to its conclusion.

Catherine also wrote an open letter to the President which was published in the media and sent it to the President’s Facebook page.

Asked how the children are surviving Catherine said: “We are barely surviving. Am the only one in gainful employment and through a government bursary I was able to complete my university education. The rest ha e not completed their college education due to lack of financial support.”

At the time of the accident, the first child was 30 and dependent on the parents; the second was 23; third 21; the fourth, Catherine 20 and the fifth 17.

“We did think of going to court but were consoled by the Presidential directive and the Ombudsman determination of 2007,” she said.

The MV Ilala was at that time under the operation of the Malawi Lake Service, a statutory corporation.

The Makalas came from Zambia and were buried in their country with the help of Zambian Embassy.

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