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Attorney General out of K9 billion legal fees matter

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Chikosa Silungwe

Attorney General (AG) Chikosa Silungwe is out of negotiations for the K9 billion legal fees which lawyers for President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice President Saulos Chilima are asking Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) to pay after losing the 2019 presidential elections case.

Silungwe, who was one of Chilima’s lawyers, has opted out of the matter citing conflict of interest.

The matter went for assessment on July 28, 2020 before High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Registrar, Agnes Patemba, who is expected to make a determination on August 10.

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Ideally, Silungwe was supposed to represent Mec in the matter as AG since it is the government which will pay the fees.

“I am not part of the negotiations because I represented one of the petitioners. I could be in conflict of interest. You can talk to Khumbo Soko on behalf of lawyers for the petitioners. If you want to hear Mec’s side, then talk to their lawyer Tamando Chokhotho,” he said when asked to give an update on the matter.

Soko confirmed that the matter went for assessment, saying Patemba will make a determination on August 10.

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On his part, Chokhotho said the commission contested the amount as presented by the petitioners’ lawyers.

“We are just waiting for the court’s determination. Lawyers for the petitioners presented their K9 billion bill but we contested it,” he said.

Justice Minister Titus Mvalo, who was also part of Chakwera’s legal team, did not pick his mobile phone for a comment on the matter.

However, a senior lawyer who declined to be named, justified the charge, saying the petitioners’ lawyers did not handle other matters for the entire nine months of the case.

“Malawi Electoral Commission did an assessment together with accountants to determine the cost of offering such legal services and came up with a recommendation of how much a lawyer can charge under such circumstances. The amount is between K40, 000 per hour for lawyers of 10 years’ experience to somewhere around K80, 000 for the most experienced lawyers.

“Now look at the caliber of the lawyers involved. For nine solid months, these lawyers were not handling any other cases. And how many were they? Normally, the fees are reduced during assessment, so lawyers usually charge higher amounts than what they expect to get. In this case, the matter might come down to K5 billion or K6 billion in my view,” he said.

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