The five-member panel of High Court judges sitting as the Constitutional Court has warned stakeholders in the elections case against bringing issues that would impede them from concluding the case by next Friday.
Justice Healey Potani sounded the warning when the court was hearing evidence from Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chief elections officer Sam Alfandika on how presidential results for the May 21 2019 elections were managed.
For the past weeks, Potani has been reminding lawyers for both petitioners and respondents that judges are determined to conclude hearing the case by December 6; hence, the two sides should stick to given timelines.
Alfandika indicated in court that he is ready to present some information on areas he was cross-examined yesterday since it was proved that he did not bring minutes of meetings MEC commissioners had when resolving electoral complaints.
Previously, lawyers representing petitioners and respondents have been asking for adjournments to pave the way for them to work on some technicalities. Later, judges resolved that hearing should be extended from 9am to 6pm, instead of ending at 5pm daily.
In an interview, both Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale and the second petitioner’s lead counsel Modecai Msisha, said they will stick to the timelines allocated to them for the remaining five days for cross-examining and re-examining the remaining witnesses.
“We should say that we have been given five hours to re-examine the chief elections officer. So we are going to stick to that,” said Kaphale.
And Msisha said: “Given that the witness is giving information we are set to finish cross-examining them. We should be finishing with them by Thursday next week.”
Yesterday, Alfandika had another moment of grappling to answer questions Msiska, who pitched his questions on how the electoral body resolved some of the complaints that were raised during the previous election.
But the MEC boss did not sweat again. But he appeared to lack answers on critical questions which Msisha, who is representing the second petitioner and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, posed to him.
Msisha based his questions on steps which MEC commissioners took in trying to resolve some of the irregularities, which included 147 complaints lodged by candidates. He also took Alfandika to task on whether commissioners were giving feedback to political parties on how irregularities raised on a number of issues were resolved.
Msisha also dwelt much on whether commissioners had meetings aimed at resolving anomalies, where correction fluid was used to alter results.
He questioned: “When the commission found out wide use of Tippex, did MEC discuss that?…Did the commissioners report the discussion on the issues of Tippex?”
In response, Alfandika told the court that the commission resolved to deploy officers to investigate, and that the officers shared their findings.
However, he failed to answer a number of questions on other issues concerning the use of reserve tally sheets and on whether or not the tally sheets had similar security features to the normal ones.
Alfandika said: “My lady, my lords, I do not want to commit myself to answering these questions because elections were held a long time ago. I do not want to commit myself and end up giving a wrong answer.”
On Thursday, Alfandika faced a sweaty cross-examination session from the first petitioner’s lawyer Bright Theu, who after noting that the witness was profusely sweating, asked him if he needed some time to cool off.
Theu, who had taken over from another lawyer for the first petitioner, Marshal Chilenga, asked Alfandika questions on the procedure surrounding election results management system and whether he had knowledge on how results were reconciled using form 66C and the log book.
Presenting the roadmap on the evidence Alfandika will give in court, Kaphale on Wednesday said he will seek to prove that contrary to the petition by Chilima and Chakwera, the presidential election results were not rigged.
Alfandika will be in the witness box again on Monday, when Msisha will finish cross-examining him.