The Constitutional Court in Lilongwe Friday adjourned the presidential election petition case to September 3 2019 after 11 days of hearing the case.
Earlier, the court had planned to have the first phase of the hearing within 12 days but it paved one day for Supreme Court of Appeal to work on the application to dismiss the case.
Chairperson of the judges’ panel hearing the case Healey Potani said the second phase of the case will run for nine days.
Hearing of the case started on August 8 2019 and the court has paraded two witnesses – first petitioner UTM presidential candidate Saulos Chilima and Miriam Gwalidi who worked as the party’s roving monitor but was stationed at the Tally Main Centre in Blantyre – out of 800 witnesses.
However, the court expects to have the number of witnesses reduced following an order for the parties to file a checklist indicating agreed facts and facts in dispute that would be used for cross examination to expedite the case.
Responding to the submissions yesterday, Potani said Chilima and second petitioner Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera intend to cross-examine two witnesses of President Peter Mutharika and three witnesses of Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec).
“Chilima’s lawyers failed to indicate areas of cross examination,” he said
He said Mutharika’s lawyers have indicated having no areas of agreed facts, with 243 witnesses to be cross-examined.
“There is no indication of areas of cross examination, the whole purpose of the exercise was to streamline cross examination on matters of dispute, the approach taken by first respondent leaves a lot to be desired,” he said.
With Mec, the court said its lawyers want to cross-examine 38 witnesses of Chilima and indicated areas of cross examination and 15 witnesses of Chakwera but without indicating areas of cross examination.
The court has since ordered queried parties to revisit their work and make fresh submission by Monday next week.
One of the lawyers for Mutharika Frank Mbeta said most of Chilima’s and Chakwera’s perceived agreed facts are not agreed facts to them.
“That could mean everything else is disputable, therefore must be cross-examined. But, obviously, as the case goes on, we will be reviewing on our decision,” he said.
Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale, who is representing Mec in the case, while commending good progress made so far, refuted having tough time with second witness Gwalidi during the cross examination as said by some followers of the case.
“I’m not having a tough time at all. I’m just taking my time because witnesses come from different backgrounds. I have seen worse actually but this is a matter with a lot of documents and they have to be tackled. Every document has its own story on its own relevance,” he said.
Since Mec declared Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party winner of May 21 Tripartite Elections, tension has been hovering around the country, with some quarters disputing results of the elections.
Mec announced that Mutharika got 1,940,709 votes, representing 38.57 percent of votes cast, while Chakwera got 1,781,740 votes, representing 35.41 percent.
Chilima came third after getting 1,018,369 votes, translating into 20.24 percent of votes counted.
MCP and UTM are challenging the presidential election results in court, seeking nullification of the results.
Meanwhile, since last month, Human Rights Defenders Coalition has been organising nationwide protests demanding the resignation of Mec Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah for allegedly running a fraudulent election.