Malawi: K300m Already Paid to MEC's South African Lawyers 'For No Work Done'

President Peter Mutharika (file photo).
13 April 2020

It has emerged that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) made a half-down payment of K300 million to its hired South African lawyers to help in the elections appeal case and will complete the balance as it still wants them as backroom legal team despite their admission to Malawi bar being rejected by Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda.

MEC lawyer David Matumika Banda prepared all the skeleton arguments on the appeal with help of private practice lawyer Tamanda Chokhotho

MEC hired Mboweni Maluleke Inc Attorneys of South Africa for the election appeal case at a staggering $788 000 (about K600 million) million on public funds.

The controversial contract for the procurement of legal services had that the South African lawyers get payment of the 50 percent which was dully processed.

The payment was made when all the skeleton arguments on the appeal has been done by MEC's in-house lawyer David Matumika Banda with help by private practice lawyer Tamanda Chokhotho under the guidance of the commission's chairwoman Justice Jane Ansah.

According to published reports on March 13 2020 Treasury expressed ignorance of the procurement of legal services of two South African lawyers - Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza and Elizabeth Makhabani Baloyi-Mere - at public expense.

Youth and Society organisation recently asked MEC to confirm what Ansah said on March 13 2020 that the electoral body was paying Attorney General Kalekeni Kahale fees for handling the election case on its behalf as government's chief legal advisor.

Ansah said this in Blantyre during the National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) meeting attended by political party representatives and other electoral stakeholders.

"Democracy is not cheap. They are the same costs the Attorney General [Kalekeni Kaphale] was getting when he was representing the Commission in the case," she told the gathering when answering a question.

YAS asks Kaphale to "confirm or deny this."

The organisation has indicated that in the event that he was receiving the payment and that it is illegal and improper, they demand Kaphale to return the money.

The electoral body declined to disclose how much it incurred on the presidential election case in relation to, among others, private legal services fees and other administrative costs.

In its demand letter dated February 18 2020, YAS requested MEC chief executive officer CEO Sam Alfandika to provide a breakdown of all expenditures incurred in the case, including unsettled bills, in the spirit of transparency and accountability of the commission.

Specifically, the CSO wanted a breakdown of costs the commission incurred on private legal services, administrative costs and costs associated with court orders awarding costs to other parties in the case.

In his response, the MEC CEO has told YAS that the commission is not under any obligation to share information on the costs on the basis that, among others, the CSO did not provide specific human rights that require information.

"You have not explained how the requested information is relevant to the exercise of political rights as provided under Section 40 of the Constitution," reads part of the response dated March 3, 2020.

Alfandika says MEC is an independent corporate body that, for the purpose of accountability, is answerable and report directly to the President on the overall fulfillment of its functions and powers.

The letter further says MEC is under relevant provisions enjoined to keep proper books of accounts and its funds are also defined and managed in accordance with the Electoral Commission Act.

In the case, the commission wants the Supreme Court of appeal to overturn the Constitutional Court ruling that nullified the 2019 presidential polls and ordered MEC to hold fresh election.

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