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Judges earn praise from Malawi Law Society

One of the friends of court in the ongoing presidential election petition case, Malawi Law Society (MLS), has commended the presiding panel of the case for being time-conscious in the first phase of the case.

The bench has judges Healey Potani as Chairperson, Mike Tembo, Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise and Redson Kapindu.

The case, which started on August 8 2019, was heard for 11 days in the first phase and will continue for nine uninterrupted days in the second phase which resumes on September 3 2019.

MLS president Burton Mhango said the judges have made several directions aiming at expediting the case.

“This is a good thing because you may appreciate that there have been a lot of documents that the courts has to go through and quite a number of witnesses that have to be cross-examined.

Even though that is worrying, the encouraging part is that the proceedings have started and people are able to follow,” he said.

Mhango said MLS feels parties have been given a fair chance to raise objections and their respective cases were properly put across before the presiding panel.

The court has so far 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 Main Tally Centre in Blantyre – out of 800 witnesses.

However, MLS said their understanding is that not everyone would be crossexamined as some are principal while others are supporting witnesses.

“This is why on Wednesday parties were directed to file documents indicating how many witnesses would be crossexamined and also areas that they would want to be cross-examined.

That is basically narrowing the number of witnesses in the case…. “We do not expect that, in the coming days, the other witnesses will also take the same number of days as the first petitioner did. They are expected to take lesser time. Of course, when the second petitioner Dr [Lazarus] Chakwera also comes in, it may take time but the other proceeding witnesses may not take time,” Mhango said.

Women Lawyers Association, which is also working as friends of court in the case, said they are not surprised with how the proceedings are shaping up.

“We are not surprised because the case is going on as we expected.

But considering the issue being contentious as it is, the court should be allowed enough time to hear the case,” said the association’s spokesperson Mphatso Iphani.

Friends of the court educates the court on points of law that are in doubt, gathers or organizes information, raises awareness about some aspects of the case that the court might otherwise miss.

The judiciary estimates that the case may likely run for the next four months.

Since Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) declared President Peter 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.

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