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The height of social media populism

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With Moshood Pinkus Mbewe:

Blues’ Orators, while scouring Facebook, I chanced upon the exchange below:

To: The Court of Public Opinion

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  1. Does anyone really believe that if the two Petitioners had lost the elections case at the Constitutional Court, the bill their lawyers would have presented to them for legal services for eight months would have been MK7 billion?
  2. If not, doesn’t the State’s loss of the case with costs mean that the taxpayer should only pay either whatever bills the lawyers would have charged their clients had they lost or whatever bills they agreed to when they negotiated the terms of representation with their clients?
  3. Even in the unlikely event that the MK7 billion bill is more reasonable than extortionate, is there a reason taxpayers are not being told how much of it will be shouldered by each of the two respondents, just as taxpayers have been told how much of it will be awarded to each of the two petitioners?
  4. And if the triumphant lawyers have chosen to burden the taxpayer with such a bill as their just recompense, should the lawyers still be regarded in the Court of public opinion as sacrificial contributors to the cause of justice in the court case or should their public esteem now be reduced to something more mercenary?
  5. Doesn’t this bill justify and warrant a repeal of the general approach of assessing legal costs only after a trial instead of continuously throughout the trial so that the Court already knows the costs on each side when it is delivering a judgment on costs?

Sean T Kampondeni

These questions attracted numerous reactions, the most significant of which was this:

To: Sean T Kampondeni

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Sean, as the President’s Executive Assistant, you should desist from such posts. Because of the position that you hold, you can no longer distinguish guide your writings as Sean, the private individual from Sean the President’s Press Secretary.

Your post has gone viral, and the comments are around the fact that “wamkati uyu.” It’s as if you have been sent by the president.

Or have you?

That said, your post takes off from the wrong premise. You confuse Solicitor and Client Costs with Party and Party Costs. Your first question is evidence of that confusion. Unfortunately, your second question derives from the wrong premise in the first one.

The third one also indicates you have not read the ConCourt and Supreme Court judgements. Costs were only awarded against the Electoral Commission and not APM. So, referring to the two respondents is misleading and wrong.

I infer you have not read the judgement because even your fourth question is wrongly framed. The “triumphant lawyers” as you call them have not chosen anything.

It is the President and Vice President who were triumphant, and it is because of that triumph that you are Executive Assistant. The lawyers were simply hired by them.

However, to the more substantial issue, costs are awarded by the Court. Even the assessment is done by the Court. In this case, it is the Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal. You have a problem? Blame the courts. Calling them mercenary, including Senior Counsel, is beneath you and I will not dignify that with any more comment.

I cannot fathom your fifth question. What do you mean repeal of the general approach of assessing costs? You should know that legal fees are gazetted in law. Are you proposed repealing the law? Maybe you should approach the Attorney General and Minister of Justice who I am sure you interact more than us commoners. However, having called them mercenary, hhmmnnnn.

Lastly but not least, isn’t it rich that you of all people are saying this? Is the journey now looking easy because you have crossed the desert? Are you really ready to throw lawyers who stood by and with the president for almost a year under the bus in this manner?

Do not be fooled, it was the ingenuity, their methodology and their dedication to their duty that ensured the triumph of the petitioners. You applauded them then, do not vilify them now. As you execute your duties at State House, do you really think the lawyers you have demeaned publicly here deserve this?

Spare a thought, Sean, spare a thought.

Sunduzwayo Madise, PhD – Dean of Law, Chancol

******

What does one make of this exchange?

If truth be told, once the Court certified Justice Ansah and her team of Commissioners as “incompetents”, they should have been directed to personally foot all costs. At a minimum, the cost of their ill-advised appeal.

Now, unconfirmed reports indicate that excluding the Limpopo clowns robbery, MEC squandered MK5 billion on its local lawyers; only to lose both legs of the case with costs.

Hence, thanks to Ansah’s incompetent leadership, we are needlessly MK12 billion poorer.

Back to the exchange above, for the avoidance of doubt, Sean is President’s Chakwera’s Executive Assistant while President Chakwera is the principal beneficiary of the lawyers’ hard work now assessed at MK7 billion.

This connection is why Sean’s post, rather than inviting answers, has attracted questions like Sunduzwayo’s; i.e.

  • Is Sean is commenting as a mere citizen, or is he under instructions?
  • Is it okay for a presidential aide to wade into sensitive matters in the public arena?
  • If okay, how will the public determine whether the expressed views represent personal or official thinking?

The supreme irony is that Sean is now paid by taxpayers due to the work that the lawyers, whose fees he deems extortionate, put in. Hence, a person being fed by the taxpayer is publicly attacking the people who made it possible for him to chew taxpayers money.

In aid of what?

Since President Chakwera denigrates citizens discourse on matters of national importance as “social media populism”, isn’t his Executive Assistant’s ill-advised use of social media to impugn another arm of government, i.e. the Judiciary, not the height of social media populism?

O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts.

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