Malawi: MCP Witness Claims Chakwera Won Malawi Presidency With Over 2m Votes

Judge's gavel (file photo).
31 October 2019

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) fourth witness in the presidential election petition case, Anthony Bendulo and Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale on Wednesday tussled in court in a cross -examination punctuated by flashes of tempers as the court learnt that MCP presidential hopeful Lazarus Chakwera won May 21 elections by 2 072 826 votes against President Peter Mutharika who allegedly got 1 817 473 votes.

Bendulo: MCP were denied copies by the second respondent, Malawi Electoral Commisison

Chakwera is the second petitioner in the presidential elections case being held by the Constitutional Court in Lilongwe, while Mutharika is the first respondent.

During cross examination with Bendulo by the Kaphale, who is representing Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) as government's chief legal adviser, it was learnt that another witness yet to testify, Eisenhower Mkaka has made a sworn statement that based on the parallel tally centre of MCP, Chakwera obtained 2 072 826 votes against Mutharika's 1 817 473 votes.

"We strongly believe that MEC concealed a figure of 317 154 votes for Dr Lazarus Chakwera from his Central Region stronghold," Mkaka claims in his sworn statement.

But in cross examination with Bendulo, who was also a roving monitor for MCP and an IT expert, Kaphale claimed MCP were coming up with different figures to claim victory in the May elections.

He cited another key witness Peter Lackson who claimed Chakwera won the polls but a difference of 82 211 votes. And that he also claimed Chakwera won by a difference of 10 000 votes.

Kaphale asked Bendulo if MCP tally centres had done a "comprehensive tabulation" that they are keeping.

Bendulo said MCP did comprehensive tabulation, part of which Lackson submitted to court.

The witness said the truth of candidates valid votes could not be obtained by just seeing results sheets only (form 66Cs), but rather analysing methods of aggregation of the results on the results sheets.

Bendulo said for example he found that results on Form 66Cs were different from the results that were recorded in log books.

He also told the court that MEC delayed uploading some results on its website from polling centres and that Political Party monitors were denied access to carbonated copy of results at polling centres, saying there was supposed to be an audit trail from the system of ME.

"Most of these results including from places where our monitors were refused carbon copies, came through phones, text messages and, in some case, written just on a piece of paper because our monitors could not afford to get the carbonated copies," Bendulo said.

The cross-examination between Attorney General and Chakwera's fourth witness was so heated that at one point a judge suggested Kaphale should pause and take a glass of water to cool down. Kaphale asked the judges for an early break after noting the frequency Bendulo was consuming water.

Bendulo rejected Kaphale's offer: "I take five litres a day [of water] this is just 3 litres."

The witness who was resolute to deny every attempt by Kaphale to discredit his testimony as week, inaccurate and not enough o suggest any rigging, also refused an offer to continue the testimony by taking a seat other than standing.

"I am still young and fit so I can continue testifying while standing," he said.

Bendulo narrated how the elections were manipulated through use of correctional fluid Tippex, other manual alterations and duplicate or fake results sheets.

But Kaphale said alteration were based on genuine need to correct arithmetic errors and that no MCP monitors made a sworn statement against the corrections.

The witness roared: "Errors can be corrected but rigging cannot not be corrected by people rigging."

During the testimony of the third witness, Lackson told the court that almost 80 percent of results sheets that MEC used in the May 21 2019 tripartite elections were altered with an aim of concealing errors.

Lackson found out that 17 votes went missing from a polling stream of a particular polling centre but the votes were shared among other streams on the constituency tally sheets to balance the total number of votes cast.

"The streams were tampered with Tipp-Ex even when other streams were correctly calculated. This was done to cover the missing votes. This has affected a good number of centres," he said.

Hearing continues Thursday when Mutharika's lawyer Frank Mbeta will cross-examine Bendulo after Kaphale finished with him.

Chakwera and UTM Party president Saulos Chilima want the Constitutional Court to nullify the presidential elections results and order a re-run.

Hearing of the case is expected to be concluded by December 6 this year. Thereafter, the five-judge panel of Healey Potani, Redson Kapindu, Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise and Mike Tembo will deliver its landmark ruling within 45 days.

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