Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale on Friday battled with the country’s immediate past vice-president and UTM leader Saulos Chilima over the use of party monitors and the now infamous correctional fluid (Tippex) during the ongoing presidential election case.
Lawyers for the UTM presidential candidate suffered a setback after the court rejected an application by lead lawyer Marshal Chilenga to scrap the current translations which the court has introduced specifically for this case and another application for the court to place time limits on cross-examination.
But in its ruling, the five-judge panel of Ivy Kamanga, Mike Tembo, Dingiswayo Madise and Healey Potani, rejected both applications.
That ruling prompted cross-examination by Kaphale on Chilima to continue and throughout his questioning, the AG, who is representing Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) in the matter, focused on drawing Chilima, who was tallied third in the disputed results, to concede that some of the irregularities he cited in his petition could not have altered election results.
Kaphale’s line of questioning further insisted that there was no evidence of fraudulent altering of documents and further focused on the absence of testimony of monitors that results sheets were doctored.
Kaphale further sought to portray Chilima as an unreliable witness in comparison with the monitors on the ground and in some instances asked Chilima to confirm that the result sheets with Tippex could have been altered for genuine reasons.
He further sought to portray that it was possible that while duplicates were used in some instances instead of original result sheets, the presence of signatures by party monitors made them admissible.
But Kaphale’s questioning tactics drew several objections from Chilenga, who accused the AG of repetitive questions and also drawing Chilima into making legal arguments instead of pure facts.
The court ruled against some of the objections, but also ruled against Kaphale occasionally, and in intense exchanges, there were heated moments where Kaphale accused Chilenga of both over protecting his client, obstructing justice.
“Do people realise these are very important proceedings and we must unravel the truth? Unless the question is immaterial, I would not have asked the question. May I formally complain against counsel Chilenga, he is getting into my way of questioning,” said Kaphale.
At one point, Chikosa Silungwe, another lawyer representing Chilima reprimanded Kaphale for getting emotional in the course of his questioning.
In some instances people in the court showed displeasure at perceived arrogance by Kaphale by booing the AG. This prompted Justice Madise to issue a stern warning to the gallery.
“If it happens again, we would not hesitate to clear the court,” warned the judge.
Kaphale, who asked Chilima to bring several documents to court on Monday afternoon when court resumes, told journalists after the hearing, he could not be drawn to comment on any timeframes, saying he doesn’t want time-frames to jeopardise delivery of justice.
The AG said he has not counted the number of witnesses he will call upon to testify, saying they were numerous.
“I am almost done with the preliminaries which I was cross-examining him on. I don’t know any time-frames set by the court, what the court said is that it will be sitting in tranches of 12 days. As you have rightly observed, this is a hybrid of an electoral case and a constitutional matter, at the end of the day, the court will have to decide on facts,” he explained.
When Chilima walked out of court, he did not want to take questions, but told Weekend Nation he was “fine” after hours of grilling.
Khumbo Soko, one his lawyers, said it was too early in the case to make any calls on how the case was going, but said the UTM candidate’s team was mindful of the need to control cross-examination.
Soko said Chilima has 40 witnesses.
The case is being broadcast live on radio and is happening amid a huge political impasse following the disputed elections in May, which saw President Peter Mutharika re-elected.