Malawi: Tippex 'Greatly Undermined' Malawi Elections - ConCourt - 'Results Sheets Speaks for Themselves'

3 February 2020

A panel of five judges in Constitution Court reading its ruling following a presidential election petition case have said the correction fluid - known locally by the brand name Tipp-Ex - that the opposition claims was used to alter of results with a vote that gave President Peter Mutharika victory, the result sheets speaks for themselves that they suffered alterations and that no monitor was needed to testify in confirming this fact.

Chakwera with his deputy Sidik Mia as well as UTM president Saulos Chilima at court Court users on judgement day Friends of Court captured at the ConCourt-pic by Lisa Kadango (3)

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) presidential hopeful Lazarus Chakwera, who came second, and UTM Party's leader Saulos Chilima, who finished third, went to court to argue that the election was not fair.

In court, their lawyers said Tipp-Ex had been used on some of the tallying forms sent in by polling stations. The changes were made after they had been signed by party agents, they argued.

The court said there is evidence of more than 200 presiding officers who have testified on Tipp-Ex and even Henzel Mukhondya the director of electoral services at Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) told the court that the documents he presented were defaced.

Chief Elections Officer Sam Alfandika too told the court that the defaced documents were presented to Commissioners and they based their decisions on these defaced documents, the court finds.

However, the court said statements by UTM monitors Mirriam Gwalidi as well as MCP witnesses Anthony Bendulo and Richard Chapweteka - that monitors were denied copies of Form 66c - is hearsay and therefore inadmissible.

But the court finds that Gwalidi tendered 54 tally sheets that were tampered with using Tippex.

"According to questions the second respondent (MEC) put to Ms Gwalidi in cross-examination, the second respondent was of the view that the tampering, according to the sample presented to the court, it was not enough evidence to conclude that the tampering was enough to affect results.

"In the Raila Odinga case [Kenya elections case], sampling was considered, and the court found that samples were enough evidence to give a clear picture of alterations made... .The court, therefore, finds that there was wide-spread use of Tippex to alter results," the court said in the ruling.

Jane Ansah, head of the electoral commission, is on record to have defended herself in local media against accusations that election tally sheets were doctored, she said: "Correctional fluid, if you check in the dictionary, corrects errors. Tipp-Ex can be used for positive and negative purposes and that is for the court to find out."

The court noted that Ansah acknowledged the widespread of Tippex on May 22 2019.

"One would expect that the Chairperson would take a stand not to accept such altered tally sheets... The position of this court is that the widespread of Tippex greatly undermined the integrity of the elections so much that applying the qualitative approach, an argument by the second respondent that the valid vote count was not affected (which is a quantative argument) and that no monitors came forward to raise a complaint does not matter and this argument is thrown away," the court said.

Petitioners in the case stated that in some cases polling officials sent in the wrong copy of the results sheet to the main tallying centre. They also found some mathematical errors in a small number of cases.

Though in each case there were not a huge number of errors, the lawyers said that the evidence pointed to a flawed process.

On BDO report, the court says MEC instructed auditors to approve manually altered result sheets.

The court said: "We find this to be a serious irregularity."

Additionally, MEC conceded that it beamed result sheets on a screen before auditors verified the results.

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