Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) paid its legal team in the May 21 2019 presidential elections nullification case K400 million but neither the former Attorney general Kalekeni Kaphale nor South African lawyers engaged for the appeal were not awarded the legal fees, according to records.
This is disclosed in a letter dated August 26 2020 addressed to South Africa-based Malawian professor of law, Danwood Chirwa, who asked the electoral body to furnish him with details of costs.
In the letter seen by Nyasa Times, MEC director of legal services David Matumika Banda said the electoral body paid K247.1 million for legal representation in the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court and K155.7 million for the appeal matter in the Malawi Supreme Court.
“The commission did not pay any deposits to the South African lawyers and has not paid any sum of money to the lawyers in respect to their engagement to represent the commission in the appeal.
“Counsel Dumisa Ntsebenza SC was engaged to be part of the legal team as lead counsel. He was specifically required to come up with positions to be taken by the commission. He was required to review the entire court record, prepare written submissions for use by the legal team in court.
“On the date set for hearing, he was expected to argue the appeal on behalf of the commission. His application to be admitted to practice in Malawi for this specific case was not granted by the Honourable Chief Justice of Malawi. Eventually, due to the Covid-19 preventive measures which were in place in both the Republic of South Africa and Malawi, Counsel Mtsebenza and his legal team failed to travel to Malawi,” read the letter in part.
The South African lawyers had given MEC a K600 million quotation.
While Kaphale, then Attorney General, in his capacity as government chief legal adviser, was not paid by MEC.
According to Matumika Banda, MEC engaged one legal firm , Churchill & Norris of private practice lawyer Tamanda Chokhotho and that it issued two invoiced which were honoured to the tune of K400 million.
While MEC legal costs is at K400 million, lawyers for the petitioners – President Lazarus Chakwera and vice-president Saulos Chilima – submitted a K9 billion legal costs bill, but the registrar of the High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, Agnes Patemba, trimmed it to K7 billion.