UK attorney demands K70m from Malawi in Chilumpha’s case

Sins committed by the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) when it was in power continue to haunt Malawians as it has been reported that a British attorney the government hired to prosecute former vice-president Dr  Cassim Chilumpha’s treason case is demanding a whooping K70 million in legal fees for this year alone.

Malawi Law Society condemned the DPP government for hiring London-based Queen’s Counsel (QC), Anthony Berry, to prosecute the case but they defended their wastage.

Secretary for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Anthony Kamanga, who is also solicitor general, said at that time that hiring of a top QC from the United Kingdom is a necessity.

QC Berry: Wants his quid

However, Berry in a letter he addressed to the former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Rosemary Kanyuka dated May 21 this year is claiming  among other things $8000 (K3.5 million) as part of his weekly legal fees for the past five months starting from January 16 to May 21.

This is translating into close to K67 million for the 19 weeks. The charges also include close to K3 million in traveling expenses.

The Weekend Nation on Saturday reported that the money is enough to buy close to 50 ventilators that are used to assist patients with breathing problems and according to an activist they are in short supply in the country’s hospitals.

The amount according to calculations made by the paper is even more than the K50 million Malawi government allocated towards the construction of the new Chikhwawa District Hospital in its 2011/2012 budget.

But Minister of Justice and Attorney General Ralph Kasambara said government was not aware of the claim made by Berry and added that he would wait to hear from the newly appointed chief prosecutor, Bruno Kalemba to decide on the way forward.

“I have not yet received feedback from the DPP on that case. I am expecting to get the feedback by Monday next week. He should be able to decide the way forward after that,” Kasambara told the paper.

Meanwhile, Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) director Martha Kwataine described the whole treason case as sheer waste of resources.

She said the K70 million could be used to buy about 47 ventilators for the country’s hospitals, since one ventilator according to Kwataine costs about K1.5 million.

Chilumpha and several other high profile politicians were arrested in 2006 on allegations that they plotted to overthrow the Bingu wa Mutharika administration. Several civil society activists and legal experts labelled the charges as trumped up aimed at getting opponents out of political face.

He was being prosecuted alongside businessman Yusuf Matumula MP on charges of treason and conspiracy to murder. They both denied the charges.

Thomas Elias Ndlovu, a Malawian living in South Africa, and Graham Minnaar, a former South African intelligence operative – were hired by government with hefty sums of money to implicate the two.

Coincidentally, by then the Attorney General was Kasambara himself. The only difference this time is that he is back into the government on different colours.

And Chilumpha is now in cabinet as Minister of Energy and Mining.

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