Khato Civils a contractor on the multi-billion kwacha Salima-Lilongwe Water Project is demanding K100 million as legal costs from lawyer Bright Theu after the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by civil society organisations (CSOs) to replace Malawi Law Society (MLS) in the case on the project with costs.
MLS wanted the High Court to review a decision by Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) to award Khato Holdings a contract for the project before an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was done.
Theu was representing the CSOs—Youth and Society (YAS) and the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR)—in the matter in which a seven-judge panel chaired by Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda and comprising appeal judges Dunstan Mwaungulu, Anaclet Chipeta, Edward Twea, Rezine Mzikamanda, Frank Kapanda and Anthony Kamanga upheld a single Supreme Court judge Lovemore Chikopa’s decision, saying there was no basis of an outside party joining proceedings which were nullified.
The court ordered Theu and his clients to bear the costs of the matter.
Meanwhile, Khato said they spent in excess of K100 million in legal fees and other logistics in the matter which the South African based contractor wants Theu to pay.
“As a company, we have spent somewhere around K2000 million or even more to pay legal bills and other logistics since the court commenced sitting for our case almost a year and half ago,” said Khato Group Media and Public Relations Manager Taonga Botolo.
“It is, therefore, our expectation that, following the court’s determination on the costs accrued, counsel Bright Theu will honour his obligation to settle the costs as soon as possible or else we would be left with no choice but to take legal action,” he said.
Theu said he has not received anything from Khato lawyers on the costs, saying “normally the two parties have to sit down and agree in the amount.”
He said if they fail to agree, the court can decide.
Recently, government signed a deal with a financier of the K400 billion Lilongwe-Salima Project, Trissag Espanola of South Africa, effectively putting on course the project that has faced several hurdles.