Two South African lawyers that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) engaged for the presidential elections appeal case arrived in the country on Sunday April 12 2020 through Kamuzu International Airport amid Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Nation Online has established that the two lawyers—Dumisa Bhule Ntsebeza SC and Elizabeth Makhanani Baloyi Mere of Mboweni Maluleke Inc Attorney arrived on a chartered plane and were not handled by the airport staff due to a directive on the same. Said our source: “I can confirm that the lawyers have arrived. Due to the Coronavirus measures we are not receiving planes carrying people, but these came using a chartered plane.
“We were told not to handle them. The only people that handled the plane were air traffic controllers who direct the aeroplane to halt.”
The source said upon arrival the lawyers were whisked away in Toyota Prado vehicles with Malawi Government (MG) registration plates from the VVIP section at the airport.
“The vehicles came to the runway and took the people from the aeroplane door. They didn’t even pass through immigration,” said the source.
MEC hired the South African lawyers at a cost of K600 million to represent the electoral body in its appeal against the February 3 2020 judgement of the five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court which nullified the May 21 2019 poresidential election over irregularities. The court ordered a fresh presidential election in 150 days.
MEC chairperson Jane Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, said the commission hired the foreign lawyers because the Constitutional Court’s order stopped the Attorney General (AG) from representing it in the case.
She said most local lawyers the commission approached turned them down and that the one who accepted to work with them indicated availability after April 2020.
The lawyers’ arrival in the country has come amid Covid-19 outbreak with the Special Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus saying they have shut down airports except for essential equipment.
South Africa has reported more than 700 Covid-19 cases and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines require travellers from such countries to be quarantined for 14 days before making public appearances.
However, the lawyers are expected in court tomorrow for their application for admission to the Malawi bar and on Wednesday for the hearing of the appeal.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) is objecting to the admission of the duo to the Malawi bar over what it calls a flawed procurement process of the lawyers.
Further, MLS argues that the lawyers were a public health risk, especially coming from a country hard hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview last week, MLS vice-president Patrick Mpaka said the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority failed to justify why MEC was allowed to use single-source procurement in the recruitment of the lawyers.