The court directive–ordering the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to pay MK7 billion to two legal teams that represented President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima in the May 21 2019 presidential election nullification petition to get a collective K7 billion fees–continues to attract public ridicule with the latest to express their misgivings being a grouping of “concerned citizens” led by activist Philip Kamangila.
While prominent legal scholars and Malawi Law Society (MLS) have given varying positions on the legal bill to be footed by MEC as assessed by Agnes Patemba, registrar of the High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, the concerned citizens have since called upon the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate the matter and get to the root cause of what they describe as a “ridiculous payment”.
Under Order 25 of the Courts (High Court)(Civil Procedure) Rules of 2017, the registrar has the power to assess the costs while not allowing costs unreasonably incurred or those that are unreasonable in amount.
Chilima and Chakwera were first and second petitioner respectively in the case while former president Peter Mutharika and MEC were first and second respondents in the Constitutional Court case which saw the May 21 2019 presidential election results overturned.
All sides had been represented by “battalions of lawyers” in the period of hearing of the case–which attracted several friends of the court and huge public following.
The case led to the nullification of the 21 May, 2019 presidential election, paving the way for a fresh presidential election on 23 June, 2020 in which Chakwera and Chilima triumphed after forming an electoral alliance.
But while the court ruling and the subsequent election seemed to have pleased many Malawians, the “astronomical” expenses of the case–coming when Chakwera, Chilima and some of their lead lawyers are now in power–have raised eyebrows.
In statement made available to Nyasa Times, Kamangila and the “concerned citizens” say the “obscene figure” reflects on “corrupt and bad leadership”.
“It is also a sign of a corrupt government which is stealing tax-payers money through unjustified means. To be specific, the whole deal seems to be very suspicious and it reads like ‘wachiona ndani’.
“The beneficiaries of this looting are the ones in leadership. Dr Chakwera is the President and Dr Chilima is the Vice President. The Minister of Justice and the Attorney General were also part of the legal team in the case,” reads the statement in part.
It adds: “Is this not a ploy to defraud government through this judicial looting? We are aware that government already spent about MK254, 000, 000 on the same case at High Court and another MK120, 000,000 in the Supreme Court.
“We, as Concerned Citizens, can hardly understand the mathematics that arrived at such a figure within a space of months under the common denominator of legal fees.
“This, in all fairness, is outrageous and people may not be that highly wrong to be thinking and labelling such an act as merely a judicial looting on an industrial scale.
“As citizens we have a stake in the affairs of this country and we will unstoppably weigh in with our voice on state and non- state actors whenever we feel that some elements seem not to resonate with the development path that this country is travelling on.
“Manifestly, we demand that our learned colleagues that had the mathematical computation of coming up with the K7 billion legal fee–the record breaking fee in the country–be accountable and produce a charge sheet that explains in detail all elements that bring up this ominous and obscene figure”.
In her assessment, Patemba ordered that Chilima’s legal team be paid K2.3 billion costs for the Constitutional Court case and K877.7 million for the appeal.
On the other hand, Chakwera’s lawyers will smile all the way to the bank with a K3.08 billion cheque for the Constitutional Court proceedings and K726.4 million for the appeal filed by former president Peter Mutharika and MEC.
The court also rdered MEC to meet the costs within 45 days.
Chilima’s legal team comprised current Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe as lead counsel, Marshall Chilenga, Bright Theu, Khumbo Soko and George Mtchuka Mwale.
Chakwera’s team of lawyers was led by senior counsel Mordecai Msisha and had Titus Mvalo (now Minister of Justice), Pempho Likongwe, Innocencia Nkhoma, Chrispin Ndalama, Isaac Msongeya and Charles Mhone.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :