Case to take 4 months

  • To cost over K150m—Judiciary
  • Adjourned to Tuesday September 3

The ongoing elections case, being heard in the High Court in Lilongwe, sitting as a Constitutional Court, is likely to run for the next four months, the Judiciary disclosed on Friday.

AG Kalekeni Kaphale (L) and lawyer Charles Mhango (R) interact in court grounds

The court, which on Friday adjourned proceedings to September 3 after running for 11 consecutive days, announced it would sit for nine days uninterrupted before another direction is given.

Registrar of the High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, Agnes Patemba, on Friday clarified, in an interview, on a misconception that made rounds that the Constitutional Court was going to hear the matter within 24 days.

Flashback: Lawyers of both camps get ready for court proceedings

“It was also incorrect to think that when the court announced it was going to sit for 12 consecutive days, it meant that the matter was going to be concluded within that period. That’s not what the court meant.

“It meant the court was going to sit for those 12 days uninterrupted, and then give further directions as the court announced today that it is going to take another uninterrupted session for the next nine days,” Patemba said.

Patemba: They need enough time

The registrar said much as the Constitutional Court has its own rules, there was no time-frame within which the case can be heard, except the fact that after all witnesses are heard and submissions are made, and case is closed, the court must, as per set rules, deliver its judgement within 45 days.

“It is our prayer that we should be done with the hearing of this case by November or December, but we should not get up to next year.

MCP lawyers leaving the court

“As you know, all sworn statements combined, they are in excess of 800 [translating to 800 witnesses]. Of course, all of them may not come. It is the petitioners’ case, and that’s why they have to be given adequate time to be heard, equally, the respondents would also need enough time to defend. The court is there to give directions where necessary,” she said.

In an earlier court session, one of lawyers representing Malawi Congress Party (MCP) presidential hopeful Lazarus Chakwera, Modecai Msisha, a respectable Senior Counsel (SC), complained about the slow pace of the proceedings and the court’s failure to control the affairs.

Msisha said at such a pace, it was going to take them up to 2025 to have the matter concluded.

But this did not amuse the bench, with chair of the five-judge panel, Healey Potani, reprimanding him that his statement was going give a bad impression to the public who are following the case on radio.

Mshisha apologised to the bench.

The registrar, touching on finances going into the case, said it was a challenge and they underestimated the funding, disclosing the budget for the whole case, which include allowances to judges as they have been brought from different regions, is estimated at K150 million.

Patemba justified the break to Tuesday this week, saying the tendered documents, which she said came in lorries, is huge and the judges and lawyers needed to refresh.

Though it appears as a break, it was not necessarily one as the lawyers have more work to do as directed by the court on Friday , to submit a checklist of witnesses they want in court and areas of cross-examination.

According to the presiding judges, all parties should rework on their checklist and submit to the court before close of business on Monday.

Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale, representing Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), on Friday continued cross-examining witness of the first petitioner, the immediate past vice-president Saulos Chilima, Miriam Gwalidi, and he will continue to have her in the witness stand on Tuesday.

Chilima and his counterpart, Chakwera, want results of the Tripartite Elections nullified on allegations that MEC mismanaged them and unduly announced the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Peter Mutharika as winner.

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