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Peter Mutharika, Lloyd Muhara ordered to pay K69 million

WHAT DO YOU THINK?—Lawyers discuss after the hearing

Ernest Thindwa

The High Court in Lilongwe has ordered former president Peter Mutharika and Chief Secretary to the Government, Lloyd Muhara, to pay Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Association of Magistrates K69.5 million for their role in the alleged plot to remove Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda and Justice of Appeal Edward Twea.

Mutharika and Muhara were ordered to pay K26 million each to Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Association of Magistrates while the Law Society will get K43 million.

Muhara and Mutharika have been given 14 days to pay the costs.

“I ordered that the first applicant (HRDC) and the second applicant (Magistrates Associations) be paid K26 million while the third applicant (Malawi Law Society) is to be paid K43 million,” Chirwa said.

Initially, HRDC and the Law Society wanted Mutharika and Muhara to pay K170 million, which lawyer representing Muhara opposed.

The lawyers had asked the court to include instruction fee pegged at K30 million, hourly rate of both Soko and Theu at K100 000, travelling time at K50 000 per 30 minutes, waiting time at K25 000 every 15 minutes and general care and conduct at K11.6 million.

Speaking after the judgment, lawyer representing Law Society, Patrick Mpaka, said he was happy with the ruling.

“The court has been fair and this would deter would-be offenders in future,” Mpaka said.

And on the reduced amount, Mpaka said the former registrar had no mandate to adjust the calculations upwards as it was only the mandate of the High Court Judge to do so.

Lawyer representing Mutharika and Muhara, Charles Mhango said he was happy that the court has reduced the amount.

“Of course, as a lawyer I need to get instructions from my client and see the way forward,” Mhango said.

Political commentator Ernest Thindwa hailed the ruling as a step in the right direction.

“It is a key development in our collective quest to deal with abuse of office. For ages, those in authority have without restraint taken decisions that are against our labour laws and good labour practice in advancement of narrow interests, thinking the cost of such labour malpractice will be bone not by them as indivuduals but the tax payer. The court determination is a significant step in ensuring that individuals are held personally accountable if it is established irregular human resource management decisions were not in the public interest but self serving objectives,” he said.

On November 20 2020, newly appointed Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Charles Mkandawire, while winding up the case he was presiding over as a High Court judge, ordered Mutharika and Muhara to pay costs incurred in the case where they were found guilty of forcing the Chief Justice and Justice Twea to proceed on leave in June last year, pending retirement.

Mkandawire faulted Mutharika and Muhara for interfering with the independence of the judiciary.

On June 12 2020, Muhara issued a public notice that the two should proceed on leave to clear days pending retirement, a development that angered HRDC, Association of Magistrates in Malawi and lawyers who later held demonstrations protesting the decision as infringement of the doctrine of separation of powers.

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