Malawi: MEC Hires 'Struck Off' Lawyer From South Africa - Malawi Law Society Misleads Chief Justice

12 March 2020

Malawi Law Society has been faulted for misleading the Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda on the issue of South African lawyers hired by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to help in the presidential election nullification appeal case by recommending that they should be admitted in the country when one of them was struck off from the roll of attorneys in Johannesburg.

MEC has hired South Africa-based law firm - Mboweni Maluleke Inc Attorneys with four lawyers in the country for case include Dumisa Tsebenza SC, Elizabeth Makhanani Mere, Gideon Phalatse and Caphus Mboweni.

The Law Society applied to the Chief Justice for admission of practice for the two of the four lawyers; Ntebeza and Makhani Mere for the presidential election appeal case.

MLS said in a letter signed by its honorary secretary Martha Kaukonde that it has examined the application and it considers that the South African lawyers "have satisfied the statutory requirements and hence has not objections to the application."

But it has emerged that one of the four lawyers, Gideon Phalatse, does not meet the criteria set by paragraph (b) of section 25(1) of the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act (2018).

As such, the Chief Justice is being alerted of the development as he considers making his opinion on whether to admit the lawyers or not in the case.

According to court information sourced from South Africa judiciary, Phalatse's practicing license was revoked and his name was struck from the roll.

The Chief Justice has been informed that Phalatse's character is wanting to be admitted to practice in a cause.

Section 25(1) (b) of the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act guides the Chief Justice to admit only those expatriate lawyers that, apart from meeting other criteria, are of good character.

However, Phalatse appears to be lacking in acceptable professional character and the Chief Justice has been alerted of this case as he makes his opinion on whether these lawyers can be admitted in the appeal case.

Meanwhile, Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (Cdedi) is appealing to Chief Justice (to reject the said lawyers' application for admission to practice in specific cause unless if he is convinced that Malawi does not have experienced and professional lawyers.

Cdedi interim executive director Silvester Namiwa, a former State House official who resigned last year ahead of May 21 polls said there could be procurement scandal and ask the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to swiftly move in and investigate the matter.

"MEC's action contravenes Malawi laws on public office procurement that demands open tender.

"This has pained CDEDI to even begin to question as to how this decision was arrived at bearing in mind that Malawi has the best and excellent lawyers that can compete favourably on the international scene," Namiwa said.

The South African lawyers have been hired for the following tasks: merit determination, advice, preparation and prosecution of the appeal case which they will be paid from taxpayers $788 500 (about K600 million), half of which has already been paid in advance.

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