There was drama at the Constitutional Court in Lilongwe yesterday morning as Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Information Technology (IT) Director, Muhabi Chisi, refused to operate his institution’s system during simulation by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) witness Daud Suleman.
Suleman had requested the court that, as IT chief for Mec, Chisi should be the one to punch in commands in the server of Mec, as Suleman demonstrated some irregularities in the Mec’s results management system.
But Chisi indicated that it is another Mec official a Mr Kadzuwa who operates the system and not him.
One of the judges presiding over the case, Dingiswayo Madise, asked Suleman if he was comfortable with Kadzuwa operating the system instead of Chisi.
“It is not okay, my lady, my lords, because the owner of the IT systems for the second respondent (Mec) is the IT director [Chisi], so I would be comfortable if the IT director goes there [to operate the system] and if he needs some help, then he should request someone to go with him and that person can assist him. I would want the owner of the IT systems at Mec to be the one in front of the server so that there are no security issues and no trust issues,” Suleman said.
But Chisi said although it was Suleman’s wish that he operates the server, in practical terms that was not how things work.
Madise then ordered Chisi to go and man the server.
Suleman said the database used in his simulation was at the point Mec Chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah, made the announcement of the election.
He said the country had 193 constituencies and 197 constituency tally centres, adding that at each constituency tally centre, there were two ICT officers and one auditor, translating to 394 IT officers in the database.
“All I would like to do is to display that some records are missing in this database. If I can request Mr Chisi to show us the contents of a table called auto approval as per paragraph 26.2 of my sworn statement. If they can give the output as account of the total records,” Suleman said.
But Chisi objected, saying the exercise was working in the wrong direction, arguing that Suleman was the one who was looking for the information and knew what he was looking for, therefore better placed to type for what he wanted.
“Actually, that was the court’s order that it would be operated by their [petitioners’] operators. We don’t know what they are looking for. They know what they are looking for,” Chisi said.
But Madise reminded Chisi that the court had ordered him to sit on the server and ordered him to do what he was being instructed to.
“You are the director of ICT [for Mec]. Can you help the court,” Madise said.
Mec lawyer, Tamanda Chokhotho, rose on an objection asking if they were to meet in the chambers on the matter.
“As we have indicated, this situation is the one that had not been communicated earlier. It would be important that we be availed an opportunity to explain our objections and hear the representations from the second petitioner [MCP President Lazaurus Chakwera) so that as we go forward, the court may have an informed position on why we are protesting Mr Chisi from conducting that operation.
“My lord it is clear that he [Chisi] is not comfortable proceeding with the exercise and he hasn’t had enough time to explain why he is not comfortable with the process,” Chokhotho said.
One of the judges, Ivy Kamanga, asked Suleman whether it was not possible for him to be issuing instructions and that Chisi just observes the server to ensure that there was no tampering.
Suleman then nominated Ernest Kapeleta, from MCP IT team to assist Chisi in the exercise.
He argued that by the time Justice Ansah was announcing the results, the system had processed 3,677 tally sheets out of 5002 national tally sheets.
“So 5002 minus the 3,677 gives us the number of tally sheets that were deleted in the server,” Suleman said.
He went on to demonstrate to the court that there were 4,846 tally sheets that were approved by ghost operators.
Chakwera and UTM President Saluos Chilima, want the results of the May 21 elections which declared Democratic Progressive Party candidate Peter Mutharika the winner, nullified, saying the elections were riddled by too many illegularities.