BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)—As the debate on the K7 billion legal fees that Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has been ordered to pay lawyers for Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima as costs for the presidential election case, presidential spokesperson Sean Kampondeni, who also doubles as executive assistant to the president, has posed interesting questions apparently against the bill.
While many a Malawian would expect Kampondeni to support the K7 billion bill by virtue of being President Chakwera’s executive assistant, his questions point to the notion that the bill is the petitioners’ (Chakwera and Chilima) conspiracy to enrich themselves by duping the state with an assistance of the country’s compromised judiciary.
In his strong opposition to the ‘doctored’ bill, Kampondeni wonders what would have happened had the petitioners lost the case.
His argument makes sense and can make much sense if we factor in the revelation that one of the petitioners President Lazarus Chakwera is about K300 million (not billion) wealth, according to asset declaration forms presented few days ago by the president.
Kampondeni is of the view that lawyers should have charged an equivalent to what they would have charged their clients had they lost the case.
“Does anyone really believe that if the two Petitioners had lost the elections case at the Constitutional Court, the bill their lawyers would have presented to them for legal services for eight months would have been 7 billion kwacha?
“If not, doesn’t the State’s loss of the case with costs mean that the tax payer should only pay either whatever bills the lawyers would have charged their clients had they lost or whatever bills they agreed to when they negotiated the terms of representation with their clients?” questions Kampondeni.
In view of the exorbitant legal fees and a clear demonstration of anger of patriot, Kampondeni further argues that lawyers should no longer be regarded as contributors to the cause of justice in the court case.
He argues: “Even in the unlikely event that the 7 billion kwacha bill is more reasonable than extortionate, is there a reason tax payers are not being told how much of it will be shouldered by each of the two respondents, just as taxpayers have been told how much of it will be awarded to each of the two petitioners?
“And if the triumphant lawyers have chosen to burden the taxpayer with such a bill as their just recompense, should the lawyers still be regarded in the court of public opinion as sacrificial contributors to the cause of justice in the court case or should their public esteem now be reduced to something more mercenary?
“Doesn’t this bill justify and warrant a repeal of the general approach of assessing legal costs only after a trial instead of continuously throughout the trial so that the court already knows the costs on each side when it is delivering a judgment on costs?”
Commenting, one facebook user Felix Njewa Kankhukwa wondered why the judiciary does not take into consideration the size of the country’s economy when taxing legal fees.
“Justice and law should also have a consideration in the economic situation and GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of a country like ours. I don’t know what law say about it. Indeed law is not justice. Much more we need sanity to our judgments,” he argued.
The Malawi High Court ordered Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) on 10th August to pay lawyers for President Lazarus Chakwera and his Vice President Saulos Chilima K7, 004, 612, 360 in legal fees for the Presidential Election Case.
Initially, the lawyers for Chakwera and Chilima tabulated and presented a bill of K9 billion but the matter went for assessment on July 28, 2020 before High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Registrar, Agnes Patemba, who made a determination on August 10.
According to Patemba, the first respondent MEC was given 45 days to pay the now taxed costs for the Concourt case and 30 days for the Supreme Court appeal case.