Mirriam Gwalidi, one of the key witnesses in the historic presidential elections petitions case, takes to the witness box this morning for a friendly re-examination by lawyers representing first petitioner Saulos Chilima.
This follows closure of a gruelling cross-examination by lawyers representing first respondent President Peter Mutharika and second respondent, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), who took turns in their attempt to discredit her claims, especially the allegation that the May 21 presidential election was rigged in favour of Mutharika.
Gwalidi, who supported Chilima’s petition to have the results nullified and an order for a rerun, faced a number of lawyers in heated cross-examination, including Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale and Tamando Chokotho for MEC; and Frank Mbeta and former AG Charles Mhango for Mutharika.
This morning, Gwalidi walks into the witness stand a little relieved for the friendly re-examination where lawyers for Chilima, who is the country’s immediate-past vice-president, are expected to put questions to her and give her room to realign her evidence the unfriendly cross-examination may have damaged.
Chilima’s lawyers hinted yesterday that they may finish re-examining Gwalidi today, and this jerked chair of the five-judge panel, Healey Potani, to advise that the next witness for Chilima, who happens to be Darlington Ndasauka, should be set today to take to the witness stand.
During yesterday’s cross-examination, Mbeta raised the issue of use of duplicates by MEC, considered as an irregularity by Chilima, asking Gwalidi if such duplicates may have carried valid votes that matched with those on original forms to which she responded that it was possible, and was ready to offer an explanation.
The witness, who earlier testified on alterations on result sheets which MEC presiding officers allegedly made and highlighted that as one of the several irregularities, declined to give a definite response when she was asked to agree with Mbeta that not all alterations could be wrong.
Gwalidi said other alterations might have been made to correct an error while others could have been made to twist the results.
Mbeta wondered how the witness had no problems to alter her own notes when the case was commencing but had a problem and called it irregular when it was MEC making the alterations. But Gwalidi said it is the right thing to make alterations when there are errors.
On some specific disputed results, Mutharika’s lawyer asked Gwalidi if it was not her duty, as a roving monitor, to verify those results by getting in touch with her monitors, but the witness said the forms were just too many and it was not possible to do so before MEC announced the national results.
For Thyolo West results, although UTM Party monitors and others signed for them, the witness said they still had some figures altered.
When Mbeta concluded cross-examination, Justice Potani asked lawyers representing Chilima if they were ready to proceed with re-examination of their witness way after 4 pm.
But Marshall Chilenga, one of the lawyers for the first petitioner, said considering the lengthy of the cross examination, they sought an adjournment to this morning to enable them prepare, which was granted.
The elections case in the High Court, sitting as a Constitutional Court in Lilongwe, resumed on Monday after a one-week recess after the case heard for 11 days nonstop from August 8.
Being heard by a panel of five judges, Potani, Mike Tembo, Dingiswayo Madise, Redson Kapindu and Ivy Kamanga, the case has Chilima as the first petitioner and Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera as the second petitioner.
Mutharika of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), in his capacity as the declared winner, is the first respondent with MEC as the second respondent.
The petitioners contend that Mutharika “won a fraudulent election” fraught with irregularities, including alleged tampering with election results sheets through correction fluid, popularly known as Tippex.