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Msundwe case costs slashed

Judge brands claim ‘unreasonable’

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Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda

Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda has revised downwards Women Lawyers Association (WLA)’s litigation costs in the alleged Nsundwe and Mbwatalika rape case from K255, 684,112.00 to K70, 895,618.21.

This follows an application of an order to review the costs by the Malawi Police Service (MPS), the Clerk of Parliament, Minister of Justice and several others.

In a 50-page judgement delivered in Lilongwe, Nyirenda said the claim was unreasonable.

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“Each item being claimed must be backed by evidence. A claim that is not supported by evidence must not be allowed. The answer does not lie in simply reducing amounts in respect of an item that has not been proved. Reduction of amounts is only appropriate where an item has been proved but there are questions regarding the amount. Take, for example, the preparation of a statement of case.

“A receiving party will usually agree that the statement of case was prepared but question why it could have taken 12 hours to prepare the statement of case that is one page long. This is where the test of reasonableness comes into play. All in all, the assessed costs by the Taxing Master in the sum of K255,684,112.00 were unreasonable and, following the review of costs herein, will be replaced by the sum of K70,895,618.21. It is so ordered,” the judgement reads.

Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda, who challenged the claim, says he is happy with the revision of figures by the judge.

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“The initial amount awarded as costs to the lawyers of the Msundwe rape victims has been reduced to K70 million from K255 million. I am satisfied with the ruling as taxpayers’ money has been saved. This is what I aimed to achieve in this case,” he said.

WLA offered pro-bono services in the case, but later charged the State K255 million after the High Court ordered it to pay costs on top of awarding the women a total of K130 million.

The amount attracted a public outcry from stakeholders, including the Malawi Law Society, who described the claim as unusual and unjustified.

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