Malawi: Chakwera's Lawyer Says Election Case Could End in 2025

From left, MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera, President Peter Mutharika and UTM's Saulos Chilima.
19 August 2019

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera lead lawyer in the presidential election petition case, senior counsel Mordecai Msisha was on Monday was forced to apologise to the Constitutional Court when he said the case was proceeding slow and it could end in 2025.

The case has 800 witnesses and estimates indicate the matter might end early next year.

Judge Healey Potani, chair of the five-judge panel of Dingiswayo Madise, Redson Kapindu, Mike Tembo and Ivy Kamanga, sitting as the Constitutional Court in Lilongwe, was not amused with Msisha's assertion that the case could drag to 2025, saying that could be misleading the public.

Msisha apologised to the court for his remarks.

Justice Potani, nonetheless, expressed worry over the objections in the trial.

He noted that on Monday they did not cover much ground because of the interjections. Potani advised the lawyers to be innovative in order to make some good progress.

The court has since provided directions that parties in the case should submit a checklist of facts that are undisputable so that cross-examination should be done only on disputable facts.

Registrar of High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Agnes Patemba said there is no specific duration to hear the elections petition case.

Patemba, who is Judiciary spokesperson, said the constitutional court gives judges mandate to make their determination for a maximum of 45 days after conclusion of hearing the case.

"There are rules that govern elections, Considering that the case is now at the Constitutional Court, there are also rules that are followed," said Patemba.

Patemba said it will not be possible for the elections case to end in 24 days with large volume of court documents and battalion of witnesses.

She said the case has documents that can fill a three-tonner lorry and the Judiciary has a set a big room to keep the documents.

The electoral commission declared Mutharika, the leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, the winner of the May 21 election with 38.6% support in the "first past the post" race. Lazarus Chakwera, who heads the MCP, was said to have secured 35.4% backing. UTM leader Saulos Chilima, who was Mutharika's deputy in the previous administration but quit last year in protest at the government's perceived failure to clamp down on graft, won 20.2%.

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