MLS tells court to reject South African lawyers

cites Covid-19, high legal fees as reasons

The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has asked the High Court not to admit two South African lawyers looking to represent the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) in the presidential elections appeal case.

In a letter to MLS members, the commission’s honorary secretary Martha Kaukonde said the foreign counsel should not be admitted.

The lawyers Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza and Elizabeth Makhanani Baloyi Mere were hired to represent MEC in the election appeal cases at a fee of K580 million.

According to Kaukonde, MEC did not comply with the Public Procurement Act when engaging the foreign counsel and the commission used single sourcing method without providing reasons.

Kaukonde also noted that the procurement authority which gave a go-ahead to the hiring of the lawyers relied on MEC professional judgement to determine the reasonableness of the fees charged by the lawyers.

“The underlying transaction is illegal on that account,” Kaukonde said.

She also faulted MEC for not indicating the availability of funding for the hiring of the lawyers before obtaining the approval from the procurement authority, as required by the Public Finance Management Act.

“There is no evidence that the procurement of the applications was in the budget of the Electoral Commission, duly appropriated by Parliament,” she said.

In the arguments, Kaukonde further noted that the agreement to pay the sum of $788, 500 (K580 million) appears not to be in line with prescription of fair and reasonable charges prescribed under the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act and Rules.

She said the lawyers’ work entail perusing record of appeal and other files related to the case and presenting the appeal before the Supreme Court for one hour.

The MLS, in arguments presented by Kaukonde, also asked the court to consider that upon arrival in Malawi, the lawyers, if admitted, will undergo 14 days of quarantine due to Covid-19.

She said the case, which is scheduled to be heard on 15 April, 2020, would have to be adjourned to a later date.

“This litigation, having caused so much anxiety over the last 1o months, the Law Society submits it is in the interest of the public that it be concluded, and everything must be done to have the hearing,” Kaukonde said.

Meanwhile, the application which was scheduled for hearing yesterday was adjourned to Monday, 13 April 2020 at 9 am in Lilongwe because the lawyers were unable to arrive in the country to be present before Court.

In the elections appeal case, MEC wants the Supreme Court to overturn the Constitutional Court judgement which nullified the 2019 presidential elections and ordered the commission to hold fresh elections.

 

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