A renowned civil rights activist, Phillip Kamangira has come out in the open and made a claim that has raised eyebrows from a cross section of active citizens in the country.
Known for being a pro-government civil rights activist Kamangira who leads Centre for Mindset Change (CMC), is calling for the resignation of Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda after the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to pay Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM K9.7 billion in legal fees.
Kamangira Says the legal costs ordered by court to be paid should not be honoured by Treasury
“legal costs which will be paid by taxpayers is on the higher side and said Concerned Citizens would pressure Treasury not to release the money,
We want to find out how the court arrived at this figure. This is unfair. We will now push for the resignation of the Chief Justice himself,” said Kamangira.
He further said the K9 billion in legal fees is astronomical figure.
“This is very unjustifiable, it is not logic in nature and we find it as a process wanting to loot money from the citizens who happen to be taxpayers,
We will do everything to make sure such amount is not [be paid],” he said
Reacting to the development, Sunduzwayo Madise, dean of law at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said sums of that nature are arrived at after meeting all concerned parties.
He said this means the state and the opposition parties lawyers met with the judges for the assessment of the costs.
Madise, who is also commissioner of the tax-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) described the calling of the resignation of the Chief Justice as childish.
Lawyer Titus Mvalo, who represented second petitioner Lazarus Chakwera in the presidential election case, said his team billed MEC K6.2 billion because they had eight lawyers in ConCourt.
First petitioner Saulos Chilima’s had four lawyers and billed MEC to pay them K2.7 billion.
The costs cover, among others include the period the lawyers spent preparing for the case, court attendance, care and conduct, instruction fee, disbursement and taxation costs. They 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 Henry Chingaipe said effectively the legal costs will amount to “paying for the incompetence of MEC.”
Another 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.
Malawi’s legal officials have been one of the busiest in the global village following high profile cases that have been contested in the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal.