As the historic elections petition case progressed yesterday, a fourth witness for immediate past vice-president Saulos Chilima took to the witness stand and faced Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale for cross-examination.
Bright Kawaka, UTM Party national deputy director of elections, is the highest ranking party official to appear in this case after Chilima.
Kawaka was introduced yesterday afternoon after another witness for Chilima, Darlington Ndasauka, was taken through re-examination to realign his evidence the unfriendly cross-examination may have damaged.
The friendly re-examination on Ndasauka by one of the lawyers representing Chilima, Marshall Chilenga, faced serious interruptions owing to objections raised by the AG and lawyer Frank Mbeta, representing first respondent, President Peter Mutharika, which were mostly overruled by the court, forcing the lawyer to either rephrase the questions or go to the next question.
Facing the AG in cross-examination, Kawaka, a trained mechanical engineer, admitted he was part of the team that accompanied Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) officials to inspect electoral materials [well after the May 21 2019 results were announced] to find evidence to support his sworn statement.
On allegations found in the sworn statements that UTM Party monitors faced intimidations [as electoral process was underway], Kawaka said he did not find any evidence to that effect in the log books during the inspection.
On bribery allegations of electoral officers, Kaphale also asked Kawaka if he found anything in the log books to confirm that, but the witness said he did not.
Turning to his sworn statement and still taking questions from the AG, the witness said he was part of a team of monitors from different political parties that accompanied MEC officials and flew to Dubai to oversee printing of tally sheets, ballot papers and other polling stationery.
Kawaka said they monitored printing of ballot papers to ensure that no counterfeit stationery was introduced into elections for possible rigging.
The witness also told the court that from the materials brought in court, he had evidence to show that the elections were rigged, referring to some forms from polling centres in Thyolo East.
Taking questions from Mbeta, representing Mutharika, Kawaka explained how watermark duplicate tally sheets came about.
“[At first], the forms were printed in one format, you could not compare original and duplicate, so we had a meeting chaired by the MEC chair in Dubai.
“All parties represented were there and MEC officials. Richard Chapweteka [for Malawi Congress Party (MCP)] raised an issue; this was the result sheet being in one format,” Kawaka said.
He said they argued after noting they could have issues and they agreed to have one master copy for sending results.
The witness said it was agreed the rest should have duplicate with water mark, admitting that their views were taken on board and that MEC was receptive before they came out with final tally sheets.
Kawaka further admitted that there was no prescribed form of tally sheets and that MEC was open to the contrary views.
He said after the printer made changes as they had suggested, they had no issues and it was their expectation that MEC was doing this to allow smooth elections.
Earlier in the morning, re-examination of Ndasauka was riddled with objections with the court overruling some questions by Chilenga considered to have come from issues that did not come out during cross-examination or existed on the sworn statements.
On different occasions, justices Ivy Kamanga, Healey Potani and Mike Tembo, in some cases referring to the court record, came in to uphold the objections, requesting Chilenga in some instances to guide his witness on how to take some questions.
The case resumes this morning.