K255m award to pro bono women lawyers ruffles feathers

Women Lawyers Association (WLA) – Malawi has come under fire from the public after the High Court in Lilongwe awarded them K255 684 112.00 as bill of costs they incurred in the course of their representing Nsundwe rape victims when, in fact, it is on record that they were representing their clients pro bono—free of charge.

An order signed by Chisomo Mandala, assistant registrar, on August 6, 2021 at the High Court, Civil Division, Lilongwe confirms the figure and Nyasa Times has further learnt that the 18 victims in total got K90 million with each carting K5 million while the pro bono lawyers instead have gone home with over K255 million.

Women Lawyers Association President, Immaculate Maluza

Following a hullabaloo on social media – especially Facebook – by a horde of Malawians which Nyasa Times monitored on Saturday, Women Lawyers Association president, Immaculate Maluza, issued a statement titled ‘Nsundwe Case, Taxation Ruling’ in which she said the process was normal.

The statement reads in part: “Both orders of compensation and costs are orders of the Court that were given after assessing all legal issues that were brought before the Court. The costs awarded by the Court take into account the work that the lawyers did in the case and the time spent on the case which is a normal process in each legal process.”

According the Women Lawyers Association bill for the Nsundwe case, the matter was handled by Counsel Charlotte Wezi Malonda of 19 years standing at the bar – MK40,000.00/hr, Counsel Hilda Soko of 10 years standing at the bar – MK40,000.00/hr, Counsel Tadala Chinkwezule of 10 years standing at the bar — MK40,000.00/hr, Counsel Carol Tendai Makoko of 4 years standing at the bar- MK30,000.00/hr, and Counsel Immaculate Maluza of 3 years standing at the bar- MK30,000.00/hr.

But a number of Malawians, including social commentators and fellow lawyers, have found WLA statement as unimpressive, saying it did not tackle and explain why they were pocketing millions of kwachas when they were entirely discharging their services on a pro bono basis.

Others called such a jackpot as “obscene.”

Seasoned private practice lawyer, Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda, wrote on Facebook that, actually, the Women Lawyers Association had been funded during litigation.

“Women Lawyers Association [WLA] received funding from the UN and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa to finance litigation in the Nsundwe case. All expert witnesses and incidental litigation costs were paid for by the donors. WLA should, therefore, refund the donors or account to the donors for the funds received,” wrote Chakaka-Nyirenda.

Scader Louis, MHRC Chaiperson – provide adequate information to the general public

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) issued a statement calling on the Women Lawyers Association to provide clarification and justification on the Nsundwe case taxation ruling.

In the statement, signed by MHRC chairperson Scader Louis, MHRC called upon the Women Lawyers Association to provide the general public with adequate information that would enable them to understand what entails pro bono services.

Reads the statement in part: “The Commission as a public institution with the mandate to implement the Access to Information Act calls upon the Association to address aspects of the cost awarded considering the grave concerns raised by the public.

“Women Lawyers Association being an organisation which carries out work related to rights and freedoms of people, has a duty under Section 15 of the Access to Information Act to make available to the general public information in its custody or under its custody in relation to funds received for litigation in the Nsundwe case and further clarify pro bono services rendered to the Nsundwe victims.”

An investigation by the same MHRC had revealed that during an operation in October 2019, 17 police officers allegedly raped 13 women, defiled one girl and sexually assaulted three teenagers.

But we understand that none of the alleged rapists has been arrested.

Lawyer Tamando Chokhotho, while commenting on the K255 million award to Women Lawyers Association, said: “What makes this case more disturbing is when you find out the real reason why none of the alleged rapists has been arrested or is being prosecuted. Truth is, a good number of the alleged victims were found with forged medical reports.

“Those that sounded like they were sexually assaulted couldn’t identify their assailants among the officers that had been assigned to the area which brings to doubt whether indeed they were officers.

“The police simply fear reprisals from the public if they were to release that information as the public may think they are trying to shield their fellow officers. So, the sad thing is some of the ladies have actually committed fraud and will get away with it because they have public sympathy. The police wouldn’t dare arrest them even though they have clear evidence of the forgery.”

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Khamani!!!
Khamani!!!
1 year ago

And you think things are going to change in Malawi ? These lawyers were already paid by NGOs for their efforts. Yet in addition, they get another Mk50M each ? There about . The women who were RAPED get about MK5M each ? RAPED!!!

The Judiciary/ The legal profession / The professional class – All disgusting!!!!

Davie
Davie
1 year ago

There is God in heaven!

Nambuma Girl
Nambuma Girl
1 year ago

I am ashamed on your behalf women. Kulimbikira konse kuja kani unali umbava. Where is your integrity each one of you ladies? Mumudziwe Yesu ndithudi.

Boma lenileni
Boma lenileni
1 year ago

How on earth could these so called woman layers be so insensitive, unfair and so inconsiderate?? Firstly it was pro bone we hear, then they got funding, and then are also being heftly awarded?? The victims getting peanuts in the process?? ma lawyer a chizimayi khalikani please chonde.. Lawyergate yikupwetani.. masiku ano anthu akuona..
firstly mubweze za madonors,
Secondly muchotse mau a pro bono
Thirdly revise the costs and bills down wards ,the rests should go to the Nsundwe victims.
Iyaaaaaa tizikuopani????????

John Phiri
John Phiri
1 year ago

All the victims getting a total of K90Million while the pro bono lawyers getting a total of K255Million. Is this correct? What does pro bono mean? Has there been any similar case in the past?

Russie
Russie
1 year ago

Zoonadi. Ma lawyer akuba awa. Pro bono is an act of social corporate responsibility. No legal firm can survive on providing pro bono services.

Medsonchimudima3@gmail.com
1 year ago

Day light Robery
Victims only 5million kwacha
Come on.

BigMan
BigMan
1 year ago

What’s the problem here? It’s not the victims that will pay the lawyers. What should worry you is the fact that the Malawi Police is protecting rapists amongst its ranks and the country is paying money on behalf of those useless people. It is a most shameful thing for this country that we have RAPISTS amongst the ranks and the IG seems fine with it.

Last edited 1 year ago by BigMan
Malikebu
Malikebu
1 year ago

Thieves, Jesus come and whip these people like you did those scoundrels in the church. Kuba poyelayela opanda manyazi. This country is rotten. Every institution stinks

Jane mgeni
Jane mgeni
1 year ago

Aaaaaa. Aaaaaaaaa. Azimayi, muzipanga manyazi ndikuba. Izitu ndizomwe timanena kuti anthu inu, u don’t deserve special treatment u r as bad as your male counterparts. Just hiding ku u lawyer. May our good lord punish you severely. Our money can’t be going to waste like this. Misonkho ya ife ovutika??

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