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Mec appeals K7 billion bill case

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The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) has finally filed an application for review of the K7 billion legal fees the court awarded lawyers for President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice President Saulos Chilima in the presidential elections case.

Mec’s Director of Legal Services David Matumika Banda said the commission feels that the amount is not a true reflection of costs that were reasonably incurred by the Petitioners.

“The application for review [of the legal fees bill] was filed,” he said.

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Following the assessment by registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Agnes Patemba, lawyers for Chilima who was first petitioner has been awarded K2, 314,184,550.00 for the case heard in the High Court sitting as a constitutional court.

Lawyers for the second petitioner Chakwera gets K3, 086,203,890.00, an amount almost half of the initial bill of K6, 260,637,526.85 for the initial case presided over by the Constitutional Court.

In the appeal case, whose ruling was delivered on May 8, 2020 Patemba has awarded Chilima and Chakwera K877, 760,000.00 and K726, 463,920.00 respectively.

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Youth and Society (Yas) also asked the commission to challenge the bill.

Yas Executive Director Charles Kajoloweka said the amount is too much.

“We strongly believe that these costs are exaggerated and that as Malawians we should not accept these unjustified costs that have been awarded by the court,” he said.

Chakwera and Chilima challenged results of the presidential elections in the May 21 2019 tripartite polls, a case they won on February 3 this year.

Mec and former president Peter Mutharika appealed the ruling but the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the High Court ruling on May 8.

In her separate rulings, Patemba said the sums have been reached at considering arguments presented from both sides of the two cases.

She noted that the petitioners had too many lawyers not all of who could be taxed but instead she decided to tax 5 lawyers from each petitioner.

Following the two rulings Malawians went to the polls on June 23 electing Chakwera and Chilima President and Vice President respectively.

One of Chilima’s lawyers Khumbo Soko said they have not been served with any documents from Mec on the matter.

In an earlier interview, Malawi Law Society Secretary Martha Kaukonde declined to discuss specific elements of the matter saying that would be prejudicial.

She however said generally legal costs are calculated based on the provisions under Part III of the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act 2017.

Kaukonde said among others complexity of the matter, where money or property is involved, the amount or value in issue; the importance of the matter to the client and time spent determine the amount of legal fees charge.

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