Malawi: Election Case to Drag for 4 Months - Court Chides Mutharika Lawyers

24 August 2019

The presidential election nullification petition case will drag for the next four months with Constitutional Court expected to deliver ruling next year, Nyasa Times understands as five-judge panel on Friday rejected a new checklist by President Peter Mutharika lawyers who indicated they wanted to cross-examine 243 witnesses.

Attorney General Kaphale (L) and Mutharika lawyers talk outside the court.-photo by Lisa Kadango, Mana

Last week, the Constitution Court directed that all parties should submit new witness checklist indicating how many dependent they are to be cross examine, their identities and areas or paragraphs to be examined for the court to achieve expedition on the case.

However, Judge Healey Potani, chair of the five-judge panel of Dingiswayo Madise, Redson Kapindu, Mike Tembo and Ivy Kamanga, on Friday noted that Mutharika lawyers were not 'serious' on the issues as they only indicated that they want to quiz 243 witness.

"The court has rejected the first respondent's checklist because it seems like it was not prepared according to the direction of the court. They will have to file a new one which will comply with the court directive," said Justice Potani.

UTM has indicated it only want to cross examine a total of four, while the Malawi Congress Party's (MCP), looks set to examine 12 witnesses. Lawyers for President Mutharika want 243 witnesses in the block, while the MEC legal team want a total of 38 from UTM and 15 from MCP affidavits.

The Court has sent back all legal teams to perfect their submissions, indicate the areas which they are in agreement and areas they want to cross-examine the other side. Mutharika lawyers were chided for not being serious.

An estimated 50 witnesses are expected to be on the dock and MCP president Lazarus Chakwera might only be heard in court probably end October or November should the current pace of proceedings persists.

Registrar of High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Agnes Patemba said there is no specific duration to hear the elections petition case, saying the trial may reach December.

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.

Ruling in the case in which UTM Party president Saulos Chilima and a fellow presidential hopeful in the May 21 Tripartite Elections, MCP's Lazarus Chakwera, petitioned the court to nullify the results, citing irregularities in the administration of the polls can be predicted somewhere after one year of elections.

The MCP and UTM Party presidential candidates claim the presidential elections were rigged in favour of Mutharika who was declared winner with 38 percent of the votes trailed by Chakwera with 35 percent and Chilima with 20 percent.

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