Objections reign in elections case

As the historic elections case in Lilongwe entered the fourth day on Tuesday , lawyers for the first petitioner Saulos Chilima kept rising up, objecting to the line of questioning by Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale.

The objection raised by lawyer Bright Theu, which the five-judge panel of the High Court sitting as Constitutional Court overruled, started when the AG asked Chilima, who is the immediate past vice-president, to comment on a sworn statement by one of his witnesses.

Kaphale: Why did your monitors sign for ‘fake’ results?

Theu told the court it was improper to ask Chilima to evaluate evidence of another witness who would eventually come in court, arguing it would consume much of the court’s time.

He complained that the same line of questioning they objected to kept coming, and his colleagues also rose in support of Theu’s position.

But Kaphale, representing Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), second respondent in the case, argued if he established what he was looking for from Chilima, there would be no need for him to put questions from the person who submitted that sworn statement.

Chilima: It happened after our monitors had already signed

Overruling the objections raised by the Chilima side, the five-judge panel said as long as the AG would not put those questions to the witness who submitted the sworn statement, he should proceed with his line of questioning.

As Kaphale proceeded with his cross-examination, asking Chilima to confirm if fraud took place through the use of correction fluid, Tippex, Theu stood up once again, arguing fraud is a legal term which should be dealt with by them as his lawyers.

The AG, not too amused with that objection, complained to the court that objections were becoming too much and affecting the speed of the trial.

“Can counsel Theu perhaps tell me how to ask questions? Or has the witness withdrawn his fraud allegation, maybe counsel Theu should guide,” said Kaphale.

Following the intervention of the court, the AG continued with his cross-examination, which took the whole of on Tuesday. Chilima is expected to appear in court again today for further cross-examination.

The AG disclosed as the case was being discharged on Tuesday that he may conclude his cross-examination of Chilima today.

As he continued taking questions from the AG, Chilima said Tippex was indeed used to correct figures, but was not supposed to be used.

On duplicates that were used, which Chilima also said were not supposed to be used, he said he was not disputing the results on them.

Chilima also admitted that no monitor for his UTM Party has submitted a sworn statement to the court challenging the results, further stating that if the monitors had alternative results, he would have brought the same to court.

But the first petitioner picked out an issue on original result sheets, citing one case of a fake results sheet he said should also not have been used.

Chilima told the court that on top of the original result sheet, where there is a bar code, there is supposed to be five digits, which bear district name, constituency name and code and polling station code, and with names of candidates already printed.

But on this example, Chilima said, this result sheet had a number with letters and digits, and the name of polling station and presidential candidates written in ink.

But Kaphale asked Chilima why both Malawi Congress Party (MCP), second petitioner in the matter, and UTM Party monitors, signed for this result sheet when they had instructions from their parties to sign for correct results only.

The AG further asked if he asked his monitors about the signing of this “fake” result sheet, but Chilima said he could not have started discussing a fake document.

Chilima also explained that they received result sheets in three categories, where the figures did not add up or were manipulated to add up numbers.

“And MEC officers did this [tampering with figures]. It happened after our monitors had already signed,” said the UTM Party president.

Chilima said MEC officers did this after they knew that results that could not add up could not be entered in the system.

He submitted 10 copies of result sheets from 10 polling centres showing alterations after figures failed to add up.

But the AG, again and again, put it to Chilima that no monitor submitted a sworn statement to court challenging any result, which Chilima said was correct.

Chilima further said while some of his party monitors did not sign for validation of results, no monitor challenged the results and did not submit to court a sworn statement.

He admitted that if he had alternative results of the disputed elections, contrary to what MEC used, he would have brought that to court.

The case continues to attract huge public interest and among UTM Party officials that  accompanied Chilima to court on Tuesday were Michael Usi, his running mate in the presidential race and Jessie Kabwila.

MCP presidential candidate in the disputed elections Lazarus Chakwera, who will also take to the witness stand as the second petitioner, also attended on Tuesday ‘s court proceedings.

President Peter Mutharika, who was declared winner of the May 21 presidential race by MEC, is the first respondent and the electoral body is the second respondent.

Following a notification submitted in court by Chakwera, Mutharika is expected to appear in court to take some questions.

Kaphale, joined by other lawyers, is representing MEC, being government’s chief legal adviser.

Chilima’s lawyers told the court earlier last week that MEC failed to discharge its duty and it should, therefore, be considered that no election that could duly elect a president of Malawi under Presidential and Parliamentary Act (PPA) was conducted.

The two petitioners are arguing that the tripartite elections lacked credibility and must be declared null and void. The petitioners, in the case being covered live by some local broadcasters, contend that Mutharika “won a fraudulent election” fraught with irregularities, including use of correction fluid and being found in possession of  results sheets at home.

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