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Court rules against opinions in polls case

CROSS-EXAMINING CHILIMA—Kaphale

The Constitutional Court, sitting in Lilongwe, Monday continued hearing the case in which Malawi Congress Party and UTM want May 21 Tripartite Elections results nullified over alleged irregularities.

During the case, chairperson of the judges’ panel, Healey Potani, ruled against the admission of opinions in the case.

The verdict followed a question, during cross-examination, by Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale to UTM president Saulos Chilima on whether he thought the 0.022 percentage of monitors intimidated during the elections was significant enough to dent the outcome of the whole vote.

This was after Chilima had told the court that 11 monitors from Thyolo, Ntcheu and Blantyre were intimidated on elections day.

According to Kaphale, the 11 monitors represent 0.022 percent of the monitors in the elections.

“If you were a member of Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec), would you have considered the number of the percentage you have mentioned to be significant?” Kaphale quizzed.

But lawyer for Chilima, Marshal Chilenga, objected to Kaphale’s line of questioning, saying the AG was asking for an opinion and not a fact.

Debate ensued on the matter with legal minds from both sides voicing out their understanding of the law on the matter.

Potani then ordered that the court go for a 30-minute recess for the panel to decide on the matter.

When the court reconvened, Potani ruled that opinion evidence, except that of an expert, is not admissible in court.

He said the court had been guided by the case between the Public and Suleman where it was decided that the court does not use opinions from witnesses.

Thereafter, Kaphale continued cross-examining Chilima on whether monitors were bribed in the election, presiding officers influenced voters, authorised were persons found with ballots, arrests of persons in relation to the elections case and failure to deriver ballots with security personnel.

Healing of the case continues today when Kaphale continues cross-examining Chilima.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will seat on Thursday to hear an appeal on the preliminary application by defendants in the elections case to have the case adjourned.

The constitutional court earlier dismissed an application to have the case adjourned.

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