The Malawi Electoral Commission’s (Mec) South African hired lawyers Sunday failed to arrive in the country ahead of application to allow them represent the commission in the presidential election appeal case.
Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda is today expected to hear an application to allow the South African lawyers Mboweni Maluleke Inc Attorneys represent the commission in the appeal case which is scheduled to start on April 15.
Mec’s lawyer Tamanda Chokhotho said the lawyers failed to arrive in the country due to travel restrictions which countries face of Covid-19.
“They are not coming due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are making arrangements that they take part in the application to allow them take part in the case via video conferencing,” he said.
The chief Justice initially had set the April 8 to hear the application but the hearing was adjourned to today [April 13] after the South African based lawyers also failed to show up for the hearing.
Mec Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah said the commission turned to the South African lawyers following the Constitutional Court’s order stopping the Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale from representing Mec in the case.
Ansah said most of the local lawyers the commission approached turned them down and that the one who accepted to work with them would be available after April.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) has since objected to Mec’s application to hire the South African lawyers saying among others, Mec did not comply with the Public Procurement Act and that the commission did not comply with the Public Finance Management Act, Regulations and constitutional guidelines when engaging foreign counsel.
“The agreement to pay the sum of $788, 500 appears not to be in line with prescription of fair and reasonable charges prescribed under the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act and Rules,” reads a memo from MLS to its members dated April 8.
MLS is also of the view that in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, hiring the South African lawyers poses a public health risk to all parties concerned.
Mec and President Peter Mutharika are contesting the Constitutional Court’s ruling which nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election further declaring that the election be held in 150 days from February 3.
Mec has since set July 2 2020 as polling day which is just a day shy of the date the 150 days end on July 3.
Voter registration in preparation for the fresh election is underway in Chitipa, Salima, Dedza, Ntcheu, Chikwawa, Nsanje and Blantyre.