Battle for Msundwe costs rages
Debate on legal costs between the State and Women Lawyers Association (WLA) in the Msundwe women rape case continued when both sides appeared in court on Tuesday.
Attorney General (AG) Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda filed a notice of admission by applicants which indicated that WLA did not disclose some key pieces of information to the court such as that some of the costs were covered by development partners, and that not all lawyers named in the bill appeared in court.
“Take notice that the applicants admit to the following facts for this review and this review only [that] Women Lawyers Association, a membership [of] which handled this matter on our behalf, had some expenses paid up by donors [and] that such expenses included costs for transport, food, accommodation, offering psychological support to the affected women and this was paid directly to the service providers,” the notice reads.
WLA, however, denied the facts presented by the AG, saying they were not true.
The matter has been adjourned to November 19, when the State and WLA would continue arguing on the case.
“I am just coming from the court because I am handling the matter. I have not delegated it to anyone but, of course, I am being assisted by some lawyers in the office. We will be back on [November] 19th,” he said.
WLA billed the State K255,684,112 as costs for handling the Msundwe women rape case after the High Court awarded them costs.
WLA, who offered the services pro-bono [free-of-charge], later charged the State K255 million after the High Court ordered the State to pay costs on top of awarding the Msundwe women a total of K130 million.
The bill was heavily criticised by sections of the society, who perceived it as too high.
Malawi Law Society described the fees as unusual and unjustified while Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) called on WLA to address concerns over the bill.
An MHRC report into the matter showed that the women were, indeed, raped but a Malawi Police Service (MPS) leaked report on the same indicated that the allegations were made up.
A third investigation into the matter by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was expected to start on October 1 2021, only to be postponed because the commission was yet to set a fully-fledged investigation team with women investigators to handle the probe.
MPS took a back seat in the investigation and let IPCC take over the wheel due to fears of bias if it were to remain part of the investigation.