After failed attempts to stay execution of a judgement for them to personally pay legal costs, former president Peter Mutharika and former Secretary to the President and Cabinet Lloyd Muhara say they will appeal.
This follows a High Court order for sheriffs to seize their property worth about K22 million for failing to pay legal costs, and the appeal is against the High Court’s initial decision for them to personally bear legal costs.
In an interview, Mutharika and Muhara’s lawyer Mwayi Banda of Tembenu, Masumbu & Company l said there has been no instruction from their clients, but all they can do now is to focus on the appeal.
He said: “We haven’t received any instruction yet, but at this point, all we can focus on is the appeal, since a stay pending appeal was already denied.
“This is the appeal against the decision by Justice Charles Mkandawire ordering that the Respondents should personally pay the costs. The main appeal will be at Supreme Court of Appeal, the one against personal order of costs. This Friday, it is coming for settlement of court record before registrar of the High Court. This is a process where parties sit and agree on which documents must make the appeal record.”
Earlier, Banda said his clients—both of whom are lawyers by profession—argue that they are not liable for costs because the decision to send Nyirenda and Twea on leave was made in their official capacity; hence, the legal bill should be footed by the Office of the President and Cabinet.
Mutharika and Muhara also made an application for review of costs assessments, saying they believe the costs should have been on the lower side and therefore, want the court to come to their rescue.
However, when the court sat on Monday to hear the application for review of assessments of K69.5 million costs, there were preliminary objections regarding the period that court documents were served on lawyers for Malawi Law Society (MLS), Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Association of Magistrates in Malawi.
Added Banda: “On the review, we are just waiting for a ruling on the preliminary objection, but we are hopeful it will proceed because it is a right.”
The two were found guilty of forcing Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda and Justice of Appeal Edward Twea to go on leave pending retirement, and were ordered to shoulder legal costs amounting to K69.5 million.
The three institutions sought a judicial review on the decision by Mutharika through Muhara to send Nyirenda and Twea on leave pending retirement ahead of the court-sanctioned June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election.
On August 28 2020, Justice of Appeal Charles Mkandawire (then High Court judge) faulted Mutharika and Muhara for interfering with the role of the Judiciary, saying they had no powers to force the Chief Justice and justice of Appeal or any other judge to go on leave pending retirement.
The two defendants were on March 12 2021 then ordered to pay K69.5 million in legal fees but they applied to the court to put aside the execution of order for them to pay costs.
However, in his ruling dated March 22 2021, High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda said there was no merit in their application.
The two had wanted the court to review the K69.5 million legal costs downward.
A seizure order issued at the High Court Lilongwe Registry by Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda, dated May 4 2021, shows that the two only managed to pay K47 million, and now face sheriffs for the remainder of the costs.