Activist, concerned citizens demand probe into K7bn lawyers’ fees for poll case

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.

Kamangira:Is this not a ploy to defraud government through this judicial looting?

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.

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Kambewa Ngozo
9 months ago

Foseki
When Muli was being paid you kept quite Foseki akutuma

Lethal Agent
9 months ago

I am going to Mugg&Bean for a cappuccino. Coffee! Anyone?

James chibisa
9 months ago

Kodi how much was Frank Mbeta paid for representing PETER MUTHARIKA?
And how much did MEC pay its lawyers like Tamando Chokhotho?
Lawyers are not cheap mind you. We r paying all this coz of stupidity of the previous MEC under Jane Ansah. If they had not appealed against the Constitutional court verdict the figure could be lower but because they wanted APM to continue ruling this country that’s why they appealed. So let CHILIMA & CHAKWERA lawyers get what the courts have assessed. Remember they worked day and night to win this case. So stop this FUSS!

Medson
Medson
9 months ago

Tonse government has big time to explain it to the citizens coming up election 2025.
This is day light robery.
Moreover most of the lawyers have spaces in the government then why should taxpayers awarded them such big cash.

Anon
Anon
9 months ago
Reply to  Medson

By the time 2025 comes, do you really think we will still be talking about these issues? Won’t there be bugger issued to focus on? So far we have not seen any tangible results from the tonse alliance. They did not even set out the goals for the first 100 days in office.

Moreover, there are no big fish that have been successfully prosecuted by ACB. It begs the question whether the big fish are in bed with the current regime.

Che Wanimiliyoni
Che Wanimiliyoni
9 months ago

To see how absurd the K7bn is let’s imagine the whole team was full of junior lawyers who charge K30,000 per hour. This figure can pay 100 junior lawyers working 24 hours per day in 100 days. So we know for a fact no human being can work 24 hours per day, there were not more than 30 lawyer and the case in court appearance both in High and Supreme didn’t go over 60 days.

Last edited 9 months ago by Che Wanimiliyoni
BigMan
BigMan
9 months ago

Calculate based on senior counsel fees. Were there junior lawyers used in this case?

Letsoalo
Letsoalo
9 months ago

The High Court award of K7billion legal costs is illegal and irregular. legal costs should have been awarded on one and attorney-client scale. The Court had no business in the appointment of large number of lawyer for each party. Legal costs are paid as refunds and not damage claims as implied in this case. Chakwera and Chilima ought to file civil claims against wasted cost and not this form of reward.

Shonai
9 months ago

Where is Mtambo and Trapez?

Psyuta
9 months ago
Reply to  Shonai

They are busy scratching their itchy testicles

JLMN
JLMN
9 months ago
Reply to  Shonai

Under the wraps of the ruling elites.Money corrupts big minds

Anon
Anon
9 months ago
Reply to  Shonai

Probably too busy doing what Chisale was doing to APM

Ida
Ida
9 months ago

This figure might appear exhaustive to some quarters but have we forgotten how much MEC was going to pay the Southafrican Lawyers who were hired only to appeal the case? If I remember very well the amount was K600,000.00 only for submissions on appeal

Anon
Anon
9 months ago
Reply to  Ida

that figure for appeal was for a new team of lawyers to fly into the country, stay in Malawi for those months, and prepare the entire case from scratch.

Here, the tonse alliance were home, they didn’t need to relocate for months, and they already knew the whole history of the case so preparing the appeal wouldn’t have taken anywhere near the time and effort as the new lawyers.

Also, the Tonse lawyers together have charged a similar amount as what the lawyers from South Africa were charging.

Your point is invalid.

President Chisokonezo
President Chisokonezo
9 months ago

To be frank. This is broad day robbery and mockery to Malawi. Even in the US standard, this amount is obcene. The bill needs to be audited

BigMan
BigMan
9 months ago

Activist, my arse.

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