The Constitutional Court yesterday rejected submission by lawyers for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate in the disputed May 21 elections, Peter Mutharika to question some 243 witnesses in the ongoing election case.
Close to 800 witnesses have provided sworn statements supporting the case of the four parties involved in the presidential results dispute.
The court had requested each side to indicate the specific witnesses who will have to be paraded in court for cross examination.
The court had also requested each side to provide specific areas to ask questions to avoid a prolonged trial and slow pace which has characterised the current trial, with the court so far hearing from two witnesses in 11 days.
But speaking on behalf of the panel of five judges hearing the case, Justice Healey Potani said the court had received a submission from the lawyers for Mutharika, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) on which witnesses they want to question.
The court further ordered that it will restrict to two lawyers from each team to participate in the cross-examination following a request from lawyers representing UTM presidential candidate Saulos Chilima, who is also the first petitioner in the case.
Potani said while both petitioners (Chilima and MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera) have reduced the number of witnesses to be cross-examined and areas to be tackled in cross-examination, Mutharika’s list was too long and appeared to have ignored the directions of the court.
According to Potani, MEC wants 53 deponents (witnesses) for both Chilima and Chakwera to be interviewed while Mutharika wants 243 witnesses and described the submission as “not candid enough” and one that “did not take the exercise seriously”.
“There is no area specified to be cross-examined. With this in mind, the approach taken by the first respondent [Mutharika] leaves a lot to be desired and, as such, we reject the first check list. We order the first respondent to file and serve an amended check list by 4 o’clock on Monday,” said Potani.
Furthermore, Potani revealed that the court has now received an application by MEC to submit to the court a report by external auditors it has hired to validate the results of the elections, but the court said it has reserved ruling, for a later date, on whether to accept the report.
MEC was on July 25 found in breach of court order after it failed to submit the audit to court as requested by Chilima and Chakwera’s lawyers. Later, the commission told the media that the failure to submit the report was because the commission was still waiting for the auditing firm, BDO Jordan, to respond to some questions the commission had on the contents of the report.
After meeting for 11 days, the court has now gone on recess and will resume sitting on September 3. Chilima and his key witness are the only individuals who have testified in a case.