Malawi: MCP Lawyers Want to Grill President Mutharika in Malawi Election Case

President Peter Mutharika (file photo).
11 August 2019

Lawyers for Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera the second petitioner in a case to nullify presidential results in the May 21 Tripartite Elections want President Peter Mutharika to appear before a five-judge panel of the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court so that they can cross-examine him.

President Mutharika: To be cross-examined in court

Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), in his capacity as the declared winner, is the first respondent with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) as the second petitioner.

Titus Mvalo, one of the lawyers for Chakwera, said as a party to the matter, the President would be required to be present in court to answer some questions.

"We will be interested to question the President in court," Mvalo said.

He said the the work of the respondents will be inadequate without the President's answers in court.

The case is being broadcast live on radio amid a huge political impasse following the disputed elections in May, which saw President Mutharika re-elected.

Mutharika is represented by, among others, lawyers from Mbeta and Co, M&M Global, Pious Attorneys, Makiyi, Kanyenda & Associates and Mhango & Co.

Frank Mbeta, a private practice lawyer representing Mutharika, said the Malawi leader filed his response and sworn statements in opposition to the consolidated petitions of Chilima and Chakwera.

President Mutharika, a professor at law, is asking the court to dismiss the petitioners' case and filed sworn statements in support of his case through Dr. Ben Malunga Phiri (Minister of Local Government), Bob Chimkango a private practice lawyer and more than 50 monitors who witnessed the whole process from voting to counting of the votes in the areas alleged by Chilima and Chakwera to have irregularities.

According to court documents seen by Nyasa Times, President Mutharika discredited the evidence of the petitioners as "lacking and wanting in all material respects."

Mutharika through lawyer Mbeta argue that the Chilima and Chakwera have heavily relied on the use of the alteration fluid known as Tippex as a basis to nullify the election.

"The Petitioners have miserably failed to tell the court the effect of the alterations on the votes polled by the candidates.

"The petitioners have also failed to tell the court the fact that alteration fluid used was only for reconciliation of the figures and not to change the votes of the candidates," reads Mutharika's response.

Currently, after two days hearing, Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale is cross examining on the country's immediate past vice-president and UTM leader Saulos Chilima - as the first petitioner - over the use of party monitors and the now infamous correctional fluid (Tippex) during the ongoing presidential election case.

Kaphale during the grueling cross-examination sought to portray Chilima as an unreliable witness in comparison with the monitors on the ground and in some instances asked the UTM leader to confirm that the result sheets with Tippex could have been altered for genuine reasons.

He further sought to portray that it was possible that while duplicates were used in some instances instead of original result sheets, the presence of signatures by party monitors made them admissible.

Chilima and Chakwera filed separate petitions disputing the May 27 Malawi Electoral Commission declaration of Mutharika as winner of the presidential race with 1 940 709 votes representing 38.57 percent followed by Chakwera with 1 781 740 votes representing 35.41 percent with Chilima finishing third and ahead of four other aspirants with 1 018 369 votes representing 20.24 percent.

The petitioners cite irregularities, especially in the results management process, as some of the factors justifying nullification of the presidential election.

The High Court consolidated the petitions into one case and referred the matter to Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda who subsequently certified it as a constitutional matter and assigned a five-judge panel to hear the case as a Constitutional Court.

The five-judge panel comprises Healey Potani, Mike Tembo, Dingiswayo Madise, Ivy Kamanga and Redson Kapindu.

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