It is now official. Two legal teams that represented President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima in the May 21 2019 presidential election nullification petition will get a collective K7 billion in legal fees.
The development follows orders issued by Agnes Patemba, registrar of the High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, after assessing the submissions in Blantyre on Monday.
The court moved in to assess the costs claimed by the legal teams for the two petitioners who successfully moved a five-judge panel of the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court to overturn the outcome of the presidential election and order a fresh election within 150 days from February 3 2020.
The petitioners also smiled in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal where a seven-judge panel upheld the lower court’s decision.
In both cases, the courts ordered the second respondent, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), to pay legal costs for the petitioners. Chilima, who contested the nullified election as candidate for UTM Party, was the first petitioner while Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party was the second petitioner.
In her assessment, Patemba ordered that Chilima’s legal team be paid K2.3 billion costs for the Constitutional Court case and K877.7 million for the appeal.
On the other hand, Chakwera’s lawyers will smile all the way to the bank with a K3.08 billion cheque for the Constitutional Court proceedings and K726.4 million for the appeal filed by former president Peter Mutharika and MEC.
The court has ordered MEC to meet the costs within 45 days.
The award comes after the two sets of legal teams collectively filed a K9 billion legal fees claim in April this year.
Initially, Chilima’s lawyers claimed K2.5 billion while lawyers for Chakwera sought K6.2 billion.
Under Order 25 of the Courts (High Court) (Civil Procedure) Rules of 2017, the registrar has the power to assess the costs while not allowing costs unreasonably incurred or those that are unreasonable in amount.
During the assessment, the court said the costs were for five lawyers who were present during the proceedings on the basis that the court felt that the rest of the legal practitioners were a luxury and an unnecessary burden on the paying part.
The initial line-up for Chilima’s legal team comprised current Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe as lead counsel, Marshall Chilenga, Bright Theu, Khumbo Bonzoe Soko and George Mtchuka Mwale.
On the other hand, the legal team for Chakwera was led by senior counsel Mordecai Msisha and had current Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Titus Mvalo, Pempho Likongwe, Innocencia Nkhoma, Chrispin Ndalama, Isaac Msongeya and Charles Mhone.
Chakwera, who teamed up with Chilima as his running mate, won the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election on June 23 after amassing 58 percent of the vote.