Malawi: Activists Demand MEC Election Case Costs - Taxpayers to Bankroll Legal Bill

18 February 2020

Some rights activists are demanding from the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) the costs for the whole election case.

Youth and Society executive director Charles Kajoloweka tells MEC in a letter dated February 18, 2019 that should the pollster fail to give the cost information within 14 days, the youth organization will seek legal redress to compel MEC release it.

"Specifically, indicate the breakdown in the following categories; costs incurred on private legal services, administrative costs, and costs associated with court orders awarding costs to other parties in the case," reads the letter seen by Nyasa Times.

Youth and Society says it was requesting the information in the spirit of transparency and accountability using Section 37 of the Republican Constitution.

This comes amid reports that the private lawyers hired by MEC to defend the case are charging higher than normal fees.

Taxpayers stand to bankroll MEC in excess of KI billion to pay lawyers representing petitioners in the presidential election nullification petition.

Currently, lawyers representing UTM Party president Saulos Chilima (first petitioner) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera (second petitioner) are tabulating the legal costs following the Constitutional Court order.

Titus Mvalo, one of the lawyers representing Chakwera, said the lawyers, who charge per hour, started billing their clients on August 8 2019, the day hearing of the case started to the day of judgement, February 3 2020.

He said the case lasted about 180 days and clocked approximately 4 320 hours in the process.

While stating that it was difficult to estimate how much MEC will pay, Mvalo said on average an hourly rate for a senior counsel (SC) is K60 000, that for a lawyer with not less than 10 years in practice is K40 000 and the charge for lawyers with less than 10 years at the bar stands at K30 000 per hour.

Besides Mvalo, Chakwera's legal team had Mordecai Msisha SC, Pempho Likongwe, Isaac Msongea, Innocensia Nkhoma, Chrispin Ndalama and Charles Mhone.

Chilima, on the other hand, was represented by Chikosa Silungwe, George Mtchuka Mwale, Bright Theu, Marshall Chilenga and Khumbo Soko.

Based on the average hourly rate for an SC, one lis ikely to cost K10.8 million in legal costs at an average of 10 hours while a lawyer with more than 10 years practice getting about K7.2 million and one with less than 10 years practice making K5.4 million.

Apart from paying petitioners' lawyers, MEC is also expected to pay Tamando Chokotho and other private lawyers the commission hired to assist Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale.

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