After securing K121 million compensation for Msundwe women, lawyers who represented the women have been paid K255 million.
This is according to an order on costs made by the High Court in Lilongwe on 6 August.
The women from Msundwe and M’bwatalika in Lilongwe were raped by police officers in 2019 and last year the court said the Malawi Police Service (MPS) should compensate the women and pay legal costs for the case.
Lawyers from the Women Lawyers Association (WLA) represented the women and for their work, the lawyers are getting paid K255 million.
According to the court order signed by Assistant High Court Registrar Chikondi Mandala, K217 million of the money is professional fees, K2.1 million is Malawi Law Society levy, and about K36 million is Value Added Tax.
In contrast, the 18 rape victims were compensated K121 million with the highest paid victim, a 17-year-old girl, getting K10 million and the lowest paid receiving K4.5 million.
The revelations about the legal costs have since sparked backlash as Malawians believed the Women Lawyers were working probono.
“In the Msundwe case the victims were awarded K5 million each and the lawyers are carting home a whooping K255 million. The 18 victims in total got K90 million and we were meant to believe it was pro bono!
“This is the maths people who went to poetry schools like Mulotwa Mulotwa won’t understand,” wrote whistleblower Mulotwa Mulotwa.
Social commentator Kondwani Munthali said: “Justice in our country works in a strange way.”
Commenting on Mulotwa’s post, lawyer Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda said he was ashamed with the awards to the lawyers.
“I maintain the K255 million legal fees is immoral and obscene. It cannot be justified by any standards,” said Nyirenda.
While another commenter said: “That’s how taxpayers’ money is being plundered in this country. All this will come from a public purse to which I and my poor aunts contribute. I can see some lawyers here being angered and becoming rude. We are entitled to our anger because we pay tax.”
The Women Lawyers Association is yet to comment on the “obscene” legal fees.