The opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) presidential hopeful Lazarus Chakwera takes to the witness stand for in the historic elections petition case in Lilongwe after the Constitutional Court rejected most of his applications yesterday.
The five-judge panel that earlier on Tuesday heard arguments from parties on a number of applications and notices the first petitioner, Chakwera, made, reserved yesterday to make its ruling.
Chakwera, who wants nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential election and an order for a rerun, triumphed on a few applications, which included the court’s order that the respondents, President Peter Mutharika and Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), first and second respondents respectively, cannot cross-examine him on his character and conduct.
Justice Mike Tembo, reading the ruling on behalf of his colleagues, said questioning Chakwera on his character and past conduct was irrelevant to the present case and would not help the court when making its determination.
“[The respondents] failed to show why that is relevant…they have not demonstrated in any way how his character is an issue for the purposes of determining the constitutional question,” he observed.
Chakwera also scored a point when the court allowed his application to bring Daud Suleman to testify and face cross-examination, but on specific areas.
The court also ordered MEC to bring gadgets Chakwera requested which were mentioned in the case, and this should be brought to court not later than the day Suleman would be presented to court for cross-examination.
But the MCP presidential hopeful suffered a blow when the court rejected his application to allow insertion of evidence not included in the sworn statements within the period prescribed by the law and sintroduction of three witnesses, with Tembo pointing out that doing so would be allowing him to bring new issues in the case.
The rejection was extended to Richard Chapweteka, Mphatso Augustine Sambo and Anthony Bendulo, whom Chakwera had wanted to testify, as was argued by one of his lawyers Modecai Msisha.
Tembo said in proceedings of this nature, evidence is accepted upon applications, not notices to the court, further arguing that in the transparent litigation, parties are expected to disclose areas of clarification they would need.
Chakwera, the second petitioner in the matter after UTM Party presidential hopeful Saulos Chilima, had also his application to limit his cross-examination by the respondents in the interest of expedited hearing, dismissed, with the court justifying that the progress so far was good.
On an application by Chakwera that Mutharika and MEC should not be allowed to cross-examine each other’s witnesses on the basis that both had similar interests in the matter as was argued by Msisha and that it would only delay the matter, the court dismissed that, saying both respondents were at liberty to cross-examine each other’s witnesses.
But on this, the court ordered the respondents to bring such areas in a checklist to be submitted to court by September 26 2019, by 4 pm.
The court also declined to make an order on Chakwera’s application for MEC to bring originals of booklet Form 60C and customised Form 66C printed and published in Dubai, for demonstration by Chapweteka, the rejected witness.
The court noted that parties in as far as sharing of information was concerned, were not cooperating.
“This may have effect [that may lead to]
unduly prolonged hearing. Parties should cooperate, and agree on facts,” Tembo advised.
The court also admonished one of the lawyers representing Chakwera, Isaac Songea, for acting incompetently, with Tembo pointing out that instead of him submitting a sworn statement to court in support of a sworn statement by another witness, he should have simply asked that witness to make a supplementary sworn statement or alter the available one.
Chair of the five-judge panel, Healey Potani, adjourned the case to today for Chakwera to take to the witness stand.
Chakwera and Chilima claim that the elections were marred with irregularities and fraud. Mutharika is a respondent to the case alongside MEC.