As the elections petition case resumed in the Constitutional Court in Lilongwe on Monday after a one-week recess, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera admitted tally sheets Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) used to declare him winner as legislator in his constituency were altered using correction fluid, Tippex.
Frank Mbeta, one of lawyers representing President Peter Mutharika, who is the first respondent in the case, made Chakwera admit the ‘Tippexed’ results that saw him win Lilongwe North East parliamentary seat during cross-examination.
Chakwera told the court duplicates and Tippex were used in his constituency and some results had alterations.
However, the court was quick to remind Mbeta to focus on the presidential result, as the matter under contention.
Chakwera, during the cross-examination, withdrew several other assertions made in his sworn statement, including claims that registration of voters was marred by irregularities; that starting registration in the Central Region by MEC prejudiced him and his party; and that MEC failed to conduct adequate civic education.
The MCP leader also withdrew claims that registration of people in programmes by government for distribution of mosquito nets and fertiliser confused people and divided their attention. He also withdrew claims that there were pre-polling irregularities.
The MCP presidential hopeful admitted he had no problems with polling day activities, but was complaining about results.
During re-examination by his lawyer ModecaiMshisha to realign his evidence, Chakwera explained that some of the changes were made to try and give a ‘yes or no’ answer which Mbeta sought.
Chakwera further explained that some of the issues were a background as he was organising his evidence to the case.
The MCP leader, in the re-examination, explained that monitors in elections are supposed to be positioned in all polling centres, districts, constituencies and all other places where electoral activities are taking place, including where printing of electoral materials is being done.
Chakwera said between a presiding officer and a monitor, the one responsible for compilation of results is the presiding officer, adding it was supposed to be reflected in the log book wherever a monitor failed to sign for results or refused to do so for any reason.
The MCP leader said he decided to petition the court after he was given information by his party representatives that some results that were tallied and were coming to tally centres did not match with what was on the ground.
The case was adjourned to today when Chakwera is expected to introduce one of his witnesses, Richard Chapweteka.
Earlier before hearing started yesterday, chairperson of the five-judge panel Healey Potani gave fresh orders, limiting cross-examination of witnesses to expedite the case.
He said: “Following a careful review of the sworn statement evidence filed with the court in respect of which cross-examination has been sought by various parties herein, hereby directs that:
“Following the conclusion of cross-examination by the second respondent [MEC] of the second petitioner [Chakwera] on the 20th day of September 2019…the first respondent [Mutharika] shall proceed to cross-examine [Chakwera] limited to one court day,” he said.
The court gave directions on periods witnesses would take in cross-examination and re-examination.
Parties to the matter expressed reservations on the court’s fresh directions and they agreed to discuss in chamber. After yesterday’s hearing which ended an hour early, the court advised to meet parties on this and other case management issues.
Chakwera and UTM Party presidential hopeful SaulosChilima claim that results of the May 21 2019 presidential election were marred by irregularities and fraud and want them nullified. The two are seeking a court order for a rerun.