First petitioner in the ongoing post-elections case, Saulos Chilima, Thursday withdrew 34 witnesses that were expected to testify, in a move his lawyers argued was aimed at expediting the case.
Lawyer for Chilima, Chikosa Silungwe, said it was difficult for his client to arrive at the decision, adding that it was arrived at in the spirit of expediting the case.
He said, after further review of the sworn statements of the 34, the team concluded that what the four witnesses have presented would be repeated by the others.
“So the court, as you are aware, has insisted that the case moves with speed. So it is not about numbers but about what you have told the court. In our view, in terms of facts, we feel we have told the court the facts on the ground.
“What would remain now is the legal analysis of what the law says about elections in this country and we will start getting ready for our final submissions to the court,” Silungwe said.
He argued that their case is premised on two pillars of irregularities and fraud and not on the number of witnesses they bring to the court.
“It’s about the quality of the evidence we bring to court and, in our view, bringing 34 witnesses that would repeat what others have said was not going to add value and was not going to be an officious of court’s time. Bear in mind that the court has repeatedly said it wants the matter resolved swiftly.
“In our view, we looked at the sworn statements and looked at what the respondent’s lawyers wanted to cross-examine on. You had a witness being called to be examined on one paragraph. You had a witness being called to be examined on three paragraphs that are not going to change anything but that are just supplementing what our four witness presented,” Silungwe said.
But lawyers representing first respondent President Peter Mutharika and Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec), while welcoming the development, prayed to the court that UTM team should bear the cost of the research invested in preparing for cross-examining the 34.
Lawyer for Mutharika Frank Mbeta, argued that his team spent a lot of money on research on the statements by the witnesses.
Lawyer representing Mec, Tamando Chokhotho, argued that Mec used taxpayers’ money on researching the case; hence, the need for the court to avoid wastage of taxes.
Chairperson of the judges’ panel hearing the case, Justice Healey Potani, has reserved his ruling on the matter to a later date.
Following the withdrawal of the 34 witnesses, the court will next Tuesday start hearing from Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president, Lazarus Chakwera, who is the second petitioner in the case.
Chakwera and Chilima want the court to nullify results of the May 21 elections, arguing that they were fraudulent and riddled with irregularities