Judiciary rebuffs Mec’s South African lawyers
Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda Monday shot down an application by South African lawyers, Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza and Elizabeth Makhanani Baloyi-Mere of Mboweni Maluleke Inc Attorneys, to represent Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) in the presidential elections appeal case.
According to Nyirenda, the two lawyers failed to satisfy one of the requirements under the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act which requires that the applicant be physically available in court when making such an application to be admitted to represent a client in a foreign land.
The two lawyers were not present in court Monday but went to Malawi High Commission in Pretoria and communicated with the court via video conferencing facilities.
One of Mec lawyers, Tamando Chokhotho, told reporters after hearing of the application that the Chief Justice said he could not waive the requirement as he is bound by the law.
“The Chief Justice has lamented the fact that we don’t have any rule that permits him to waive attendance in the country. He has actually suggested that it is one of the areas worthy exploring that in such times as these, waivers should be granted, but in the meantime, he has declined because he said he is bound by the law,” Chokhotho said.
He said since he has been dealing with the matter since its inception, he will represent Mec in the appeal case which starts at the Supreme Court of Appeal tomorrow.
Nyirenda’s determination put to bed various assumptions that Malawians had on what would happen if the lawyers were granted their wish.
This was so because, coming from South Africa, the lawyers were supposed to undergo a 14 day quarantine which would mean that they would still not be able to attend court in the wake of Covid-19.
Last week, the Malawi Law Society objected to the hiring of the South African lawyers, among others saying, the sum of S788, 500 (about K600 million) legal fee charged by the lawyers was unreasonably exorbitant charge on the public purse.
MLS also argued that there is no shortage of local technical capability or capacity to fulfill the procurement requirement for legal services in the appeal case concerned.
The lawyers’ body also asked the court to take judicial notice of Covid-19 and the state of the lockdown in South Africa from where the applicants are coming.
MLS Vice President, Patrick Mpaka, Monday said it was pleasing to note that the Chief Justice has given his verdict on the matter.
As at Monday, it was not clear as to whether the SA lawyers will still be paid their money following the turning down of their application.
Mec Director of Media and Communication, Sangwani Mwafulirwa, said he was not privy to any agreement between Mec and the lawyers, adding that he could therefore not say whether they will be paid or not.
But Mec Legal Director, David Banda, said the issue of payment is an issue that the parties to the contract must review in line with the terms of the contract.
A purported document of terms between the lawyers and Mec spells out that Mec was supposed to pay 50 percent of the legal fee by March 13. However, Mec said nothing has been paid so far.