Hearing of the elections case in the Constitutional Court continued on Monday with second petitioner Lazarus Chakwera and second respondent Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) ordered to pay costs for inconveniencing other parties in the court processes.
The two were ordered to pay costs for what the five-judge panel said was a move aimed at delaying court proceedings, contrary to the resolution they made that no party should file any more applications in the interest of time.
Passing the judgement, Justice Healey Potani ordered Chakwera, who is Malawi Congress Party president, to pay K900 000—an amount that will be equally shared among the first and second respondents as well as the first petitioner in the elections case.
On the other hand, MEC was also ordered to pay Chakwera K200 000 as costs for filing an application seeking the court to issue a certificate of non-compliance against the second petitioner after he had already submitted the documents on Saturday.
Chakwera failed to submit the required supplementary sworn statements last Friday as ordered by the court, prompting the judges to order him to pay costs for inconveniencing others in the elections case hearing process.
This means President Peter Mutharika, who is the first respondent, MEC as the second respondent and UTM Party leader Saulos Chilima, who is the first petitioner, will receive K300 000 each from Chakwera.
Chakwera and Chilima are seeking a nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential election results which they claim were marred by irregularities.
Last week, the court found Chakwera’s third witness Peter Lackson Chimangeni, who is being cross-examined based on the affidavits he presented, had some important information missing in his sworn statements as some documents were not marked for proper referencing during the cross-examination process.
This influenced the court to order Chakwera to submit supplementary sworn in statements on the information which, according to his defence team, are based on the missing of the original result sheets in some centres as well as other documents.
In an interview, Chakwera’s lead counsel Modecai Msisha acknowledged having filed documents after the deadline had passed. But he attributed it to the unforeseen blackouts and traffic jam on late Friday afternoon.
Said Msisha: “The court decided that we should file the documents by 4.30pm on Friday which was quite correct because of some reasons. But we could not manage because of issues of blackouts and traffic.
“The cost is not a penalty. We inconvenienced other parties by not giving them material within the prescribed time. I am comfortable with that amount.”
Chilima’s lead counsel Chikosa Silungwe said in an interview that the party will be obliged to receive the money in compliance with the order.
He said: “The order to pay costs has come from the courts on discretion. It’s not really for the party to say that we do not want the cost. We will get our part of costs in compliance with the order.
“It has nothing to do with whether we are happy or not. Our receipt of costs will simply be that we are complying with what the court has ordered.”
After passing judgment, the court continued hearing the case. Chakwera has since withdrawn five more witnesses to expedite the case, according to Msisha.
The witnesses whose affidavits shall be removed from the files are Mphatso Sambo, Tione Malizani, Rashid Mpezeni, Sam Kawale and Ishmael Anusa.
The court will tomorrow continue cross-examining Chimangeni before moving on to the remaining five witnesses, according to Msisha.