Government has paid fees for lawyers who represented President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima in the historic presidential election case.
Treasury spokesperson Williams Banda confirmed the news, but declined to provide details of the outlay.
He said: “Government has finally paid what was determined and claimed at the High Court and the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal. I cannot state the actual amount. In terms of the list of which lawyers have been paid, I may need some time.”
The High Court awarded Chakwera and Chilima over K5 billion in legal costs which was to be paid by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) whose administration of the elections was faulted by a panel of five judges that nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election.
The court initially ordered MEC, which was the second respondent in the case, to pay lawyers for the petitioners over K7 billion, but the amount was reduced, on review, to around K4 billion.
The court ordered Chakwera, the second petitioner, to be paid K2.1 billion, and first petitioner Chilima to be paid K1.9 billion within 14 days.
MEC chairperson Justice Chifundo Kachale said at the time the commission would challenge the legal fees.
One of the petitioners’ lawyers, Khumbo Soko yesterday declined to comment on the matter.
Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo and Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe represented Chakwera and Chilima, respectively, in the case.
Court records indicate that a total of 13 lawyers represented Chakwera and Chilima.
Chakwera’s legal team was led by Modecai Msisha, SC, a veteran lawyer who declined a Cabinet appointment after Chakwera and Chilima took over government following their triumph in the court-sanctioned June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election.
Previously, legal experts gave mixed reactions to the legal fees.
On his part, South Africa-based law professor Danwood Chirwa said MEC, which was the second respondent in the Constitutional Court case that saw the May 21 2019 Presidential Election results overturned, should challenge the decision on costs in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
He said: “That is the only way by which questions about conflict of interest, collusion and opportunism that hover ominously around the issue can be put to rest.”
But University of Malawi Chancellor College law Professor Garton Kamchedzera told The Nation MEC was to blame for handling the election with impunity and total disregard for legality and accountability to Malawians.
He also said MEC approached the election case with mediocrity.
The Chakwera-Chilima duo petitioned the High Court on the May 21 2019 presidential vote seeking nullification and an order for a fresh election, which the courts granted. The five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court on February 3 2020 nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election over irregularities.