Lawyers fight over benefits


 A BIG row has broken out among lawyers over payment of K7 million benefits to over 5,000 former Government workers who volunteered to leave employment in 1997 under the voluntary separation scheme.

The differences have arisen over who should handle the payments and which lawyer was titled to legal fees as the former civil servants who initially formed the Voluntary Separatee Association of Zambia (VSAZ) have formed several groups and engaged different lawyers.

The latest dispute involves Lukona Chambers, Okware and Associates and Malipenga and Company.

Lukona Chambers were the initial advocates who prosecuted the matter from 2002 on behalf of the more than 5,000 VSAZ members and won the case in 2006.

However, monthly payments from the Ministry of Justice to the VSAZ members only started in 2008.

Okware and Associates were engaged by some VSAZ members who were dissatisfied with Lukona’s handling of their services.

Malipenga and Company was engaged last December after some VSAZ executive members reported Lukona Chambers to the police over alleged illegal deduction of retirees’ benefits.

But a few weeks ago, Malipenga and Company in partnership with Okware and Associates engaged Government on the 8 percent underpayment which Government has agreed to pay and the money was due to be released last week.

But Lukona Chambers wrote to the Ministry of Justice which is handling the matter allegedly demanding 12 percent from the K7 million, as legal fees as they were the lawyers who started the case.

Lukona Chambers has also submitted a list of 511 VSAZ members who wish to be paid under the law firm.

However, the VSAZ executive members under Malipenga and Company have disputed the list of names submitted  by Lukona Chambers and reported the matter to police.

In a letter dated March 23, 2015, Deputy Police Inspector General (Operations) Malcom Mulenga wrote to VSAZ indicating that Lusaka lawyer Nelly Mutti’s  docket (the owner of Lukona Chambers) was referred to the Director of Public Prosecution for study and would soon be taken before court.

In a letter dated March 18, 2015, the VSAZ executive members under Malipenga are also demanding that Lukona Chambers should forgo the 12 percent claim as it was not part of the 8 percent underpayment negotiating team of lawyers.

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