The ongoing presidential election petition case that has given Malawians hope that the post-election political impasse will be resolved soon might prove to be a source of a far-fetched dream.
With day four of the case’s allocated 12 days finishing with the cross-examination of a single witness—first petitioner who is also UTM Party president Saulos Chilima—some legal minds say they expect a long litigation battle between the parties.
Over 800 witnesses are expected to testify in the case in which Chilima and a fellow presidential hopeful in the May 21 Tripartite Elections, Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP), Lazarus Chakwera, petitioned the court to nullify the results, citing irregularities in the administration of the polls.
But outside the court, some stakeholders have embarked on the dialogue path by courting key players in the stand-off, notably government, civil society organisations under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and beleaguered Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson Jane Ansah, to bring about political stability and save the economy.
In a written response on Monday, renowned lawyer Raphael Kasambara said the case would go beyond the initial allocated days.
“There are no specific allocated days for the case. The court simply blocked a number of days for the first session. After those days are exhausted, another set will be allocated,” he said.
On his part, Chancellor College law lecturer Garton Kamchedzera said the pace of the case was a critical element that the public was firmly fixed to.
He said: “It appears the court has become worried too, judging by the conference they want to have tomorrow [today].”
The Constitutional Court is today expected to evaluate the progress of the high-profile case being heard in Lilongwe by a five-judge panel comprising five judges Healey Potani, Mike Tembo, Redson Kapindu, Dingiswayo Madise and Ivy Kamanga.
Meanwhile, since the May 21 polls, Malawi has been immersed in political turmoil which has seen the country’s annual investment platform, the Trade Fair organised by the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), being postponed twice after foreign exhibitors refused to attend, citing political instability.
Economic commentators have since predicted a bad year for the country’s economy if political stability does not return quickly.
In a written response yesterday, Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) president Chikumbutso Kalilombe said the country is suffering for heavy reliance on seasonal agriculture and lack of a big manufacturing sector.
He said: “On investment, we are losing time that we do not have, considering the level of underdevelopment and further, we are losing the perception that we are a stable nation which has been our biggest advantage.”
According to Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) executive director Grace Kumchulesi, the unstable socio-economic and political environment prevailing in the country, will affect investment which will have far-reaching consequences to the economy.
Chancellor College political analyst Mustafa Hussein said in an interview the perfect scenario for the country would be that the case is disposed of before the dialogue process reached its maturation. He said: “The only challenge is that the court process would eventually create winners and losers, but that could be managed.”