Malawi: Court Orders MEC to Pay K9bn in Legal Fees to Chakwera, Chilima Lawyers

10 August 2020

High Court has ordered Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to pay lawyers for President Lazarus Chakwera and his Vice President Saulos Chilima over MK 9 billion legal costs - as legal fees, an expense burden on the taxpayer for Jane Ansah led MEC's incompetence in the annulled presidential election case.

The new order follows a constitution court ruling which ordered MEC to pay all legal costs for the first and second petitioners in presidential elections case.

According to the Registrar of the High Court, Agness Patemba the first respondent MEC has been given 45 days to pay the costs.

"The Court is of the view that the bill for the first petitioner be taxed at a total of MK 2,314, 184, 550 and at a total of MK 3,086,890 for the second petitioner.

"The second respondent (MEC) is ordered to pay the total amount to the first and second petitioners within 45 days from the day of this order," ordered Patemba.

The costs cover, among other things, the period the lawyers spent preparing for the case, court attendance, care and conduct, instruction fee, disbursement and taxation costs. The are charges are per hour. A minimum hourly rate for a senior counsel is K60 000, for a lawyer with not less than 10 years it is K40 000, and for lawyers with less than 10 years at the bar, it is K30 000.

Governance analyst Makhumbo Munthali, suggested that it is high time public officers who demonstrate incompetence in court cases should be personally liable for the legal costs.

He said such a punishment would act as a deterrent against possible abuse of taxpayers' money by partisan officers.

"The level of impunity that MEC demonstrated is partly due to the fact that they are not personally liable for the cost of the election case. It's high time, as a country, we had a sober debate on the matter," Munthali said in quoted which were reported by The Nation newspaper

MEC also has to pay South African legal firm, Mboweni Maluleke Inc Attorneys, who were hired to represent the electoral body in the appeal case.

UTM president Chilima and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Chakwera won the presidential elections in which they were challenging the outcome of May 2019 presidential elections.

MEC and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president Peter Mutharika were the first and the second respondent in the case.

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