Chakwera, AG battle

  • MCP leader’s cross examination winds up
  • Case adjourned to September 30

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera On Friday finished giving testimony under cross-examination, cementing his case that the May 21 presidential elections were marred by irregularities, possible fraud and bias.

Chakwera, who alongside UTM presidential candidate Saulos Chilima, is disputing the narrow re-election of incumbent President and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Peter Mutharika, at the Constitutional Court.

Chakwera insists the election was marred with irregularities

On Friday, the two-time presidential candidate was facing the second and last day of cross-examination from the Attorney General (AG) Kelekeni Kaphale, who is representing the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) which, alongside Mutharika, are second and first respondents, respectively, in the election case.

After days of haggling over various points, as Kaphale sought to punch holes in Chakwera’s testimony, Chakwera finished giving testimony by pushing through a narrative the AG was trying to dismantle.

Chakwera (L) with Chilima and opposition sympathisers outside court

While most of the questions under cross-examination limited the capacity for witnesses to explain, Chakwera still managed to give a glimpse of the gist of his main arguments on the various contentious issues under dispute.

In one instance, Chakwera summed the various irregularities in figures—telling the court that he is challenging the validity of the results based on the use of 176 tally sheets which had correction fluid (Tippex) on it, the use of 70 duplicate sheets instead of originals and some 634 manually altered tally sheets.

This, Chakwera told the court, constituted some one million of the votes officially tallied and occurred in 78 out of 193 constituencies across the country. The MCP president argued that such an occurrence could not be ignored as a coincidence or legitimate forced errors, saying these actions constituted irregularities contrary to both the law and processes of the law as announced to the parties by the electoral body, but also in its published manuals.

Asked to substantiate allegations of bias on the part of MEC, Chakwera cited the manner in which MEC handled results as reason to suggest bias.

Kaphale challenged Chakwera that MEC responded officially to MCP’s complaints during the elections, but Chakwera dismissed the assertion, saying the responses were “unsatisfactory” and “complaints kept coming up.”

The AG throughout the cross-examination also sought to dismiss Chakwera as a witness lacking knowledge of both the law, the contents of his own petition and election process, but with Chakwera equally uncompromising in yielding to Kaphale’s questioning style. The two clashed on several occasions, leading to the judges to intervene by either asking Chakwera to simply respond to the question or for Kaphale to ask the question in a different way.

“You have a PhD, Sir, let’s behave like people who went to school,” bellowed Kaphale in one of his outbursts.

In another tirade, Kaphale said Chakwera was giving “vague” responses and threatened not to stop the cross-examination until the MCP leader obliged to the questions he was being asked.

The questions could change, but Kaphale and Chakwera shared none of the politeness that Kaphale’s final statement as he wound up the cross-examination, commended Chakwera for candid responses. Nor did Kaphale stop irking the bench: “Move on Hon Attorney General, we are judges and not jury,” bellowed Justice Mike Tembo as Kaphale insisted on asking in a manner the judges asked him to change.

Kaphale took a moment, then snapped: “I was trying to recall the difference between the judges and jury, anyway.”

“You know the difference,” said Tembo. The judge again had to force Kaphale from asking questions bordering on Chakwera’s character.

In his final push, Kaphale also gave a glimpse on his ultimate response to the allegations in the petition. He asked Chakwera a series of questions, all seeking to show that there might be other plausible explanations to some of the alleged irregularities in his petition.

The case has since been adjourned to September 30, when it will resume for another three weeks—to October 18. Then, lawyers for Mutharika will start cross-examining Chakwera, before other MCP witnesses step in the dock.

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