Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale has assured securiy to all witnesses in the presidential elections nullification petition case underway in the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court in Lilongwe.
The assurance follows a security alarm Daud Suleman, the sixth and last witness for second petitioner and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, raised in court yesterday.
Suleman, an information technology (IT) expert hired by MCP during the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections and made an elections data simulation in court to indicate that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) results management system was compromised, alleged in open court that he was getting threats from unknown people.
But before the five-judge -panel could take note of the complaint, Kaphale said the witness was not supposed to say anything after finishing taking questions from Chakwera’s lawyers in re-examination.
However, Judge Ivy Kamanga, a member of the judges’ panel that also comprises Healey Potani, Redson Kapindu, Mike Tembo and Dingiswayo Madise, intervened and proposed that the security concern should instead be discussed in the chamber after the court session.
In an interview later, Chakwera’s lead lawyer Modecai Msisha confirmed that the matter was discussed in the chamber and that the AG assured the other parties that government will guarantee protection of witnesses.
He said: “The witness has indeed reported that some unidentified people approached his village [in Thyolo] and delivered some threatening messages. It was on account of him being a witness in court… That is what we discussed.”
Msisha said the AG pledged to use the State machinery to investigate the claim.
First petitioner and UTM Party president Saulos Chilima paraded four key witnesses.
In the case, Chilima and Chakwera are seeking nullification of the presidential election results over alleged irregularities in the results management system and an order for a rerun.
During re-examination process yesterday, Suleman demonstrated how data was allegedly manipulated in the MEC system.
The witness told the court that MEC chairperson Jane Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, announced final results excluding 4 836 result sheets that had not yet been approved. He added that 3 677 results sheets were yet to be processed by the time of announcement.
Kaphale, who is representing MEC as the second respondent, alongside lawyer Frank Mbeta for first respondent President Peter Mutharika, raised objections to stop Suleman, but were overruled.
Former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu, a member of Mutharika’s legal team, said the petitioners failed to prove in court that presidential results were manipulated; hence, asked the court to throw away the petition.
Tembenu made the argument when he laid the case on which Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Ben Phiri, who is also governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) director of elections, will be giving his evidence today.