With the High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court set to start hearing a petition seeking to nullify presidential election results on July 29, lawyers for petitioners and respondents continue to tussle on technicalities.
This time around, lawyers representing the first respondent, President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), have complained to the court that the first petitioner in the case, the country’s immediate past vice-president Saulos Chilima of UTM Party, has not complied with an order to file “paginated bundles” to their client by July 1 this year.
In a petition dated July 9 2019, private practice lawyer Frank Mbeta submits that Chilima’s legal team has not shared the documents they will rely on in court.
But lawyer George Mtchuka Mwale, speaking on behalf of Chilima’s legal team, said in an interview on Wednesday that they complied with the court order by filing all relevant documents.
He said the team would respond accordingly to the claims filed by Mutharika’s lawyers.
Said Mwale: “All the relevant documents were filed. We have seen the communication [from the first respondent] and we will respond accordingly.”
However, Mbeta insisted that they have not been served with paginated bundles of the documents. He said the development has the potential to delay the case.
“If they complied, where is Dr Chilima’s paginated bundle because if you ask me about MCP, I can say I have Dr [Lazarus] Chakwera’s paginated bundle.
“They were supposed to do that by first July. They haven’t done that. We called to remind them, but they still haven’t done that. And to make matters worse, most of their documents were sent through e-mail and were not even signed.
“If they had followed all proper procedures and served us by first July, we could have effectively responded to whatever issues raised,” he said.
On June 27, the court directed parties to the case to exchange or serve each other relevant documents, including responses, before July 29 when hearing of the substantive matter to the case is set to start.
Mutharika is the first respondent while Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is the second respondent. On the other hand, Chilima is the first petitioner with Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera as second petitioner.
The duo is challenging the presidential vote in the May 21 Tripartite Elections and seeking nullification.
Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda certified the case as a constitutional matter and assigned a five-judge panel comprising Healey Potani, Mike Tembo, Dingiswayo Madise, Ivy Kamanga and Redson Kapindu.