Malawi: Mutharika's Key Witness Ben Phiri Contradicts Own Statement On Irregularities in Malawi Election Case

25 November 2019

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera's lawyer Mordecai Msisha on Monday morning dug holes into a key witness to President Peter Mutharika, who is first respondent in the presidential election case, Ben Phiri's testimony, as he commenced his cross-examination.

Ben Phiri: My Lady, My Lords tippex was used on tally sheets

Msisha started his cross-examination by inquiring if Phiri discussed anything to do on various irregularities that occurred during the tallying of the votes in the May 21 elections and if the witness and the first respondent had any interaction on the independent auditors report.

Phiri, who was Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) director of election during May 21 polls , told the panel of five judges hearing the case that he discussed with Mutharika on the irregularities but did not discuss about the auditors report.

Although he indicated that he talked with President Mutharika on the use of reserve tally sheets, he said he did not tell him about security features on the said tally sheets.

On the use of white correctional fluid tippex, Phiri said he understood that it was used to correct mistakes by presiding officers which were committed because they could not understand some terminologies on the tally sheets.

"In relation to use of tippex, did you inform [President Mutharika] that tally sheets had tippex on them," asked Msisha to which Phiri answer was positive.

Phiri, who is also Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, told the court he told Mutharika that there was misunderstanding of various terminology by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) presiding officers hence mistakes were made and needed to be corrected with tippex mainly in the reconciliation part.

"Did you discuss with him [President Mutharika] where this tippex came from?" Msisha asked

"No," Phiri answered.

However, he could not say that it was the best way of correcting mistakes as the electoral bdy did not officially communicate to parties on how these mistakes would be corrected.

In his sworn statement, Phiri indicated that all duplicate results sheet used were dully signed by all parties monitors, a point which was contradicted during cross examination.

Msisha shown Phiri some duplicate results sheets which were used during the elections before asking the witness to confirm if all monitors for elections signed the documents,which he responded with a negative.

"Do you maintain that all monitors signed duplicate results sheets that were used?" asked Msisha.

"No with an explaination," he answered.

During cross-examination by first petitioner Saulos Chilima's lawyer, Chikosa Silungwe,

Phiri acknowledged that the May 21 elections were marred by challenges that included officers filling in inappropriate boxes of the tally sheets because of failure to understand some terminologies.

He also admitted use of Tippex, duplicate forms and alterations of results on tally sheets by some polling staff.

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