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Judiciary dismisses concerns on Judge Potani’s inclusion

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By Jameson Chauluka:

The High Court in Lilongwe has called for a scheduling conference on Friday to look into the electoral case involving Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera and UTM leader Saulos Chilima on one side, with President Peter Mutharika and Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) on the other.

Some of the issues which the parties will look at the conference are whether they need to amend any of their supporting documents, seek further and better particulars of any of either party’s case, whether there are matters that are agreed facts and whether any party should be added or removed from the case.

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The notice, dated June 11 2019, says the conference will take place in chambers.

“Take notice that the applicants shall not later than 10:00 hours on Wednesday, 12th June 2019, serve the respondents and the Attorney General referral by the original court as contained in Form 20 dated the 4th day of June 2019 and all other processes filed with the court to date,” reads the notice in part.

The conference follows a court order to consolidate cases in which MCP and UTM, separately, challenged May 21 presidential election results in which Mec declared Mutharika the winner.

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Mec, through chairperson Jane Ansah, declared Mutharika the winner of the presidential race by 38 percent against 35 percent and 20 percent for Chakwera and Chilima, respectively.

MCP and UTM observed that the elections were marred by serious irregularities in polling centres thereby undermining the credibility of the elections.

MCP director of legal services, Larry Mita, hailed the courts for calling for the conference, saying it would help expedite the case as it would not be derailed by preliminary issues when it starts.

High Court judges— Healey Potani, Mike Tembo, Dingiswayo Madise, Ivy Kamanga and Redson Kapindu—are expected to hear the case as a constitutional matter.

However, there have been questions on the inclusion of Potani on the bench to hear the case since he recused himself from a similar case in 2014, saying his brother Harris worked for Mec.

Harris Potani still works for Mec as deputy chief elections officer responsible for operations but Registrar of the Judiciary, Agnes Patemba, defended the inclusion of Potani in the panel.

“This is a panel of five judges. It’s the majority decision that will carry the day and not a one man’s decision,” she said.

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