‘I caught MEC official altering results’

One of the key witnesses for the first petitioner in the ongoing elections case, Miriam Gwalidi, on Thursday told the Constitutional Court in Lilongwe that she found an official from Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) monitors altering results at a polling centre in Ndirande, Blantyre.

Gwalidi, who worked as a roving monitor for UTM Party, whose presidential candidate Saulos Chilima alongside Malawi Congress Party (MCP) presidential hopeful Lazarus Chakwera, are disputing the elections results announced by MEC, made the claims during cross-examination.

Chilima and Gwalidi (R0 confer after a court hearing

She made the allegation when quizzed by Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale. Gwalidi was responding to questions over her sworn statements in which she has detailed various allegations of irregularities which various UTM monitors recorded.

Gwalidi, who was a roving monitor in Blantyre and was later stationed at the Main Tally Centre, cited the incident as evidence that she was a first-hand witness of the irregularities.

“I received a call from UTM monitors while we were at the Main Tally Centre [Comesa Hall] that at Matope Polling Centre in Ndirande, UTM monitors were being denied access to result sheets. We went there and I found the MEC officer and DPP monitors altering the results,” she said.

Gwalidi continued tussling with Kaphale, who is representing MEC in the case, over various parts of her sworn statements, ranging from allegations of intimidation to use of duplicate sheets.

Representing: Kaphale

The hearing was interrupted in the morning by discrepancies in the files being used in the case with the five-judge panel headed by Justice Healey Potani expressing their displeasure with lawyers for first petitioner Saulos Chilima for failing to fulfil undertakings made earlier to put the files in order.

The court was forced to break for over an hour in the morning after lawyer Marshall Chilenga told the court that the UTM lawyers were yet to finish amending sworn statements of Gwalidi, the second witness to be paraded in court by the team.

Following remarks by Kaphale earlier in the day that after him, he will leave it to Tamando Chokotho, also representing MEC, to continue cross-examining Gwalidi, Chilenga in the afternoon when the court resumed at 2 pm rose and cited two foreign case authorities to the effect that where several defenders are on one case, a senior among the lawyers on that side should be the one to be heard throughout.

This was based on the fact that to have another lawyer for cross-examination after Kaphale would delay the case.

But Kaphale complained that lawyers for the first petitioner were always taking them by surprise.

“I thought we were moving from ambush to openness. We will give our response on that tomorrow

[today]

,” Kaphale said.

The AG continued taking Gwalidi through the presidential tally sheets, asking her to mention how many votes each political party received in a number of polling stations and streams across the nation.

While admitting of the tally sheets signed by UTM Party monitors, Gwalidi also pointed out a number of forms that were altered in favour of Mutharika and also agreed with others that were not altered in any way.

The witness also agreed some alterations were necessary and correctly done, in reference to one presidential candidate, Reverend Kaliya, who was given two votes at one stream, but on another form it was corrected that he got one vote, with a UTM monitor signing for that result.

Kaphale on a number of occasions asked the witness if she ever asked UTM Party monitors about the problems found on some forms to which she responded that she did not.

The AG asked whose fault that could have been not to approach the monitors and Gwalidi said it was her fault. 

Kaphale also made Gwalidi admit that a monitor who witnessed voting, counting and tallying of votes on the ground, is better-placed to tell the truth [about the process and the ultimate results] than anyone else.

On one occasion, the witness said as much as one form was signed by a UTM monitor, Tembo Lapson, she could not guarantee that he was her party’s monitor because she did not have his sample signature with her.

Chilima and Chakwera are seeking the nullifaction of the presidential results in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, aguing the poll was marred by irregularities.

Hearing of the case continues today. 

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