Lawyers representing Malawi Congress Party (MCP) presidential hopeful Lazarus Chakwera have dropped President Peter Mutharika from the list of their witnesses in the ongoing historic elections petition case.
Titus Mvalo, one of Chakwera’s lawyers, disclosed in an interview on Saturday that Mutharika is dropped from their final list of witnesses to appear before the High Court’s Constitutional Court in Lilongwe.
On the other hand, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has maintained the largest list of witnesses to appear before the court, over 700, according to the electoral body’s lead lawyer Tamando Chokotho.
President Mutharika, the first respondent in the matter, has 42 witnesses to parade, according to one of his lawyers, Frank Mbeta.
This puts UTM presidential hopeful Saulos Chilima the only party to the case with the leanest list of witnesses, having paraded only four, including Chilima himself, out of 38.
In an interview on Saturday, Mvalo said they decided to drop Mutharika upon assessment of the evidence they have, and they now remain with 19 witnesses and would decide along the way if all of them would testify.
But Mbeta said it was not going to be possible, anyway, for the second petitioner, Chakwera, to force the President to appear before the court.
“If they insisted, we were going to argue against it and the court was going to look at whether you can force a party to testify. How do you ask a respondent to give evidence for their case?
“They made an allegation, petitioned the court and the logic is simple; he who alleges, must prove it. It was as well as asking the one accused to go to court and hung himself, it doesn’t work that way,” Mbeta said.
He said the Mutharika team is expected to parade 42 witnesses, but lawyers for the petitioners have indicated that only two monitors who were at the National Tally Centre in Blantyre would be cross-examined.
The other 40 witnesses, Mbeta said, are monitors that were in different polling centres across the country.
Chokotho said MEC has over 700 witnesses, but the petitioners have selected to cross-examine only three MEC officials—the chief elections officer Sam Alfandika, director of ICT Muhabi Chisi and director of electoral services Henzily Munkhondya.
However, he said he needed to cross-check the exact number of their witnesses, said the last time he checked, it was 748.
Chakwera will start testifying this Tuesday after the first petitioner Chilima, wrapped up his testimony last Thursday.
Mutharika was declared winner in the elections with 1 940 709 votes against his main challenger Chakwera’s 1 781 740 votes.
Chilima and Chakwera contend that Mutharika “won a fraudulent May 21 2019 Presidential Election” fraught with irregularities, including alleged tampering with election results sheets with Tippex and want the court to nullify the results and order a re-run.