The Constitutional Court hearing the elections case in Lilongwe yesterday expressed concern over the slow progress in the trial and set up conditions that would help inject speed in the case.
Among others, Chairperson of the judges’ panel hearing the case Healey Potani said, going forward, parties in the case should submit a checklist of facts that are undisputable so that cross-examination should be done only on disputable facts.
Potani said cross-examination of witnesses will now be done only upon a filing notice.
“The notice to indicate name of witness and even paragraphs on which questions will be asked. All parties to file such notices by Wednesday 20/8/ 2019,” Potani said.
He also warned the attorneys against repeating of questions by parties conducting cross-examination.
According to Potani, objections that are vexatious will be dismissed summarily, adding that only valid objections will be entertained and dealt with accordingly by the court.
Potani said the case has documents that could fill a three-tonner lorry, therefore the need for speed in the matter to expedite the trial.
He said the court has scrapped off the 12 hours lunch break saying from Monday lunch break will be observed at 14 hours to achieve a speedy trial.
When the court resumed yesterday morning, lawyer representing President Peter Mutharika Frank Mbeta continued cross-examining UTM President Saulos Chilima, who is first petitioner in the trial.
Mbeta had to withdraw pictures of the gadgets which he was using to cross-examine Chilima on grounds that the pictures were not filed in court or disclosed to other parties.
This was after Chilima’s lawyers Chikosa Silungwe and Marshall Chilenga objected to the use of the pictures, arguing it was a clear violation of Civil Procedures Rules of 2017 which does not permit documents to be brought through the backdoor.
In an interview, one of the lawyers representing Mutharika Charles Mhango said even though Mbeta withdrew the evidence, the question that he asked Chilima would still form part of the evidence in court.
The court adjourned to Monday 9 am.
However, before the adjournment, Mbeta played a number of audio recordings of press conferences addressed by Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah, a recording of a Mec press briefing in which the commission’s CEO Sam Alfandika confirmed to journalists an incident of pre-marked ballots in Mzimba where one of the presiding officers was arrested and a recording in which Mutharika, while addressing a rally after the election results were announced, claimed that DPP votes in Central Region were “stolen”.
However, the court noted that there was a mix-up in the audios and narratives.
Silungwe admitted to the mix-up and told the court that he will have to make a correction over them.
Potani, therefore, agreed with the Chilima’s lawyers.
Mbeta continued the cross-examination that focused on other aspects.
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 Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP) Lazarus 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 Ansah for allegedly running a fraudulent election.