The Constitutional Court in Lilongwe on Monday moved to extend its daily afternoon sessions by one hour to expedite hearing of the presidential election petitions case.
In the case, UTM Party president Saulos Chilima and his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) counterpart Lazarus Chakwera, as first and second petitioner, respectively, are seeking disqualification of the May 21 presidential election results, citing irregularities by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) in administering the poll.
The five judge panel comprising Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise, Mike Tembo and Redson Kapindu presiding over the case on , resolved that court sessions should begin at 9am to 6pm each day until the case is concluded.
According to the judges, the move is a case management resolution by the court to expedite the case whose hearing is scheduled to be completed by December 6 this year.
The Registrar of Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal and the High Court of Malawi Agnes Patemba announced earlier that the hearing of the case will be concluded by December 6 and that judgement will take place within 45 days from the date of conclusion.
The five judges continued hearing the case on Monday after a one week recess.
It continued with the cross-examination of Chakwera’s second witness Richard Chapweteka and the third witness Peter Lackson Chimangeni, both of whom took final questions from lawyers representing the first respondent President Peter Mutharika.
Lawyer Madalitso Mmeta, who is representing Mutharika, asked Chimangeni about a number of centres where it is believed that the total number of votes which presidential candidates got did not match the total number of valid votes.
For example, Mmeta reminded Chimangeni that in Dedza Central Constituency tally centre, 33 444 votes were given to the second petitioner when there was a total number of 27 475 ballots marked as valid votes. The questions bordered on whether the witness cross-checked data with relevant authorities before tabulating the figures in their own system.
Other areas which Chimangeni was cross-examined on were the figures that were registered in Dowa West Constituency where, according to the lawyer, Chakwera accumulated 61 638 votes when the total valid votes were 56 364.
However, there was controversy when Mmeta introduced 66C document depicting results for Fatima Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) centre.
Chakwera’s lawyers objected that the document should not be used for cross-examination because it was not filed in court as part of the reference material during the case hearing process.
Chapweteka was cross-examined and re-examined a couple of weeks ago, but returned to the witness box on Monday to be questioned on the new evidence he sought regarding the packaging list of ballot papers.
In his response, Chapweteka told the court that there were extra documents, especially the 66C forms booklets, that were not indicated as shipped in the country for training purposes.
According to the new evidence, MEC was supposed to source 5002 booklets but instead 5 500 were shipped in the country, providing an extra 498.
Forms 66C were used for tallying results in all polling centres, some of which are the ones the Chakwera’s team is claiming were tippexed and manually altered.
But lawyer Frank Mbeta, who is representing Mutharika, argued that the witness did not bring any new evidence surrounding the packaging list of materials, saying MEC honoured that contract as agreed by printers.
He said: “The witness left for Dubai with a figure of documents in his mind. He did not bother to find out there on the number of documents. And when he came back he did not even find out at the airport. So the number of documents is the same.”
Today, Chakwera’s lawyers will start re-examining Chimangeni. Chakwera’s lead counsel Modecai Msisha said the team will move with speed in the re-examination process.