Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-United Democratic Front (UDF) alliance running mate Atupele Muluzi has queried the K9 billion that the opposition for the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the UTM party is demanding, as costs for the presidential elections case.
Atupele was speaking during his campaign meeting at Euthini in Mzimba on Thursday. He repeated the same at Mbalachanda and Mpherembe in the district.
He claims the demand is “pure theft.”
Atupele told the opposition leaders; Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima to pay the legal fees from their pockets as the show of the love of their country.
“It is immoral to demand such a huge amount of money from the public purse when the government has a lot of services to provide to the poor people,” he said.
Atupele’s comments comes after a grouping of Concerned Citizens have demanded explanation from the Judiciary on how it arrived at the K9.7 billion as legal costs – which will be paid by taxpayers.
The grouping, which comprises Philip Kamangirah, Willard Mhone, Nathan Chabuka and Moses Chione, has described the claim as illogical, uncalled for and crooked. The grouping further states that it finds the claim as undemocratic and very unwelcome.
It has given the Judiciary up to seven days to clarify, failing which they will call for the immediate resignation of the Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda.
Reacting to the development, Sunduzwayo Madise, dean of law at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said sums of that nature are arrived at after meeting all concerned parties.
He said this means the state and the opposition parties lawyers met with the judges for the assessment of the costs.
Madise, who is also commissioner of the tax-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) said the Judiciary is under no obligation to make such a clarification.
He said the Concerned Citizens could be making the demands based on lack of information.
“I would like to believe that the said Concerned Citizens are misinformed. The courts have no obligation to disclose to the public how it arrives at legal costs,” he said.
Lawyer Titus Mvalo, who represented second petitioner Lazarus Chakwera in the presidential election case, said his team billed MEC K6.2 billion because they had eight lawyers in ConCourt.
First petitioner Saulos Chilima’s had four lawyers and billed MEC to pay them K2.7 billion.
The costs cover, among other things, the period the lawyers spent preparing for the case, court attendance, care and conduct, instruction fee, disbursement and taxation costs. They are charges are per hour. A minimum hourly rate for a senior counsel is K60 000, for a lawyer with not less than 10 years it is K40 000, and for lawyers with less than 10 years at the bar, it is K30 000.
Governance analyst Henry Chingaipe said effectively the legal costs will amount to “paying for the incompetence of MEC.”
Another governance analyst Makhumbo Munthali suggested that it is high time public officers who demonstrate incompetence in court cases should be personally liable for the legal costs.
He said such a punishment would act as a deterrent against possible abuse of taxpayers’ money by partisan officers.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :