Witness explains polls irregularities

Fourth witness for the immediate past vice-president Saulos Chilima in the elections petition case on Wednesday highlighted alleged electoral irregularities during re-examination.

Bright Kawaka, UTM Party’s deputy director of elections, told the Constitutional Court in Lilongwe that they found a tally sheet from Mileme School, Phalombe North, which had a stream added manually.

The witness, guided by one of the first petitioner’s lawyer George Mtchuka Mwale, told the court he obtained the tally sheet  from Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) warehouse in Maone, Limbe.

Some lawyers interact with Kaphale (L) during breaktime from court

Kawaka, the court learnt, was among a team comprising representatives from Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Judiciary, Parliament secretariat and MEC, who were inspecting ballot boxes in all regions to obtain evidence for the case.

The witness was also introduced to a duplicate, and he informed the court that it also had an extra stream, from the same Phalombe North, which was manually added.

He said this duplicate had names and what appeared as signatures of monitors, but a presiding officer did not sign and it had no date.

Mwale reminded the witness that he was asked in cross-examination if a hand written form, not printed as was expected, would change anything [on result sheets], and he responded that procedurally, it was not supposed to be like that [hand written].

But Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale, representing MEC, objected, arguing the witness did not answer the question because it did not address the question if it was to change anything.

Mwale argued the question was answered.

Justice Dingiswayo Madise, a member of the five-judge panel hearing the matter, advised the AG that he conducted his cross-examination and should leave it to lawyers representing Chilima to conduct their re-examination.

Kawaka explained that in coming up with number of streams, MEC was looking at number of voters registered in a particular constituency, and that figure would determine polling centres and streams would be based on that.

On intimidation allegations, the witness said  their monitors did not fill if their complaints in the log because they were not allowed to.

Kaphale raised an objection, forcing Mwale to move on to a different question.

The witness told the court that each log book, printed in Dubai where he was part of the team to witness the process, had a district name, a stream it was meant for, a station code and constituency where that log book was designed for.

“[All materials had] security features to enhance security of the votes,” said the witness in re-examination, amid a number of objections from lawyers Frank Mbeta and Charles Mhango, representing the first respondent, President Peter Mutharika.

Most objections emanated on claims that the witness was bringing issues not covered in cross-examination and in his sworn statement.

The court adjourned hearing of this historic elections case that started on August 8 to this morning after Kawaka finished giving his testimony.

Chair of the five-judge panel Healey Potani announced that a set of 11 witnesses for the first petitioner, Chilima, would take their turn one by one, starting from today.

In total, Chilima has 38 witnesses to appear before the court, but Potani expressed optimistic that they may not take much time with most of these witnesses.

The turn of the MCP presidential hopeful Lazarus Chakwera will come after the court finishes hearing witnesses for Chilima.

President Mutharika of DPP, in his personal capacity as the declared winner, is the first respondent with MEC appearing as the second respondent.

The petitioners contend that Mutharika “won a fraudulent May 21 2019 Presidential Election” fraught with irregularities, including alleged tampering with election results sheets through correction fluid, popularly known as Tippex.

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