Silence, anxiety and excitement Thursday dominated the High Court proceedings in Lilongwe as the long-awaited May 21 presidential elections case finally started.
The case, which has attracted attention locally and internationally, has started over 75 days after Malawians went to the polls.
Teams of lawyers were Thursday spotted banging heads on how best they could advance arguments in the case.
There was equally no shortage of political leaders as they eagerly observed legal minds trying to outwit each other in the case.
Earlier in the day, the court threw out an application by Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale, who is representing the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec), to adjourn the case for six days to give his team ample time to read and respond to sworn statements from the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
Lawyers representing President Peter Mutharika in the case also made an oral adjournment application in the court.
Delivering the court’s determination on the matter, Justice Mike Tembo, said the court was not convinced that the case should be adjourned because the court gave ample time to all parties to file applications to the court way before the case commenced.
“The court has observed that the service of those statements was made eight days ago. The observation of this court is that the first respondent had enough time to respond to those statements. The first respondent therefore cannot come today to seek an adjournment of the hearing of this matter on the basis of those two statements.
“With regard to the second petitioner file in which the AG sought on behalf of the second respondent to have time to deal with, this court will allow the second respondent two days — that is this weekend and half a day on Monday next week—to read and prepare in relation to the second petitioners file that are an issue in this matter,” Tembo said.
When the case started immediately after the rejection of the AG’s application, it was a tough day for UTM president, Saulos Chilima, as Kaphale cross-examined him.
Kaphale showered Chilima with basic but tricky questions on the role of stakeholders in the electoral process, including Mec, political parties and party monitors.
Among other things, Chilima, who appeared calm throughout was asked if he knew how Mec commissioners are appointed.
Kaphale quizzed Chilima whether the selection process of Mec commissioners was good enough to ensure impartiality of the electoral body.
Lawyer for Chilima, Marshal Chilenga, rose to object to how the AG was questioning his client.
Chilenga argued that, considering that Chilima did not study law, the issues should best be answered by his lawyers but the objection was overruled and Kaphale continued questioning Chilima.
Hearing of the case continues at nine o’clock this morning when Kaphale will continue cross-examining Chilima.