Proceedings in the presidential elections nullification petition hearing heated up on Monday with Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale and Daud Suleman, the sixth witness for the second petitioner, tussling on how results were allegedly manipulated in the system.
During cross-examination which started at around 3pm after the AG had requested for more time during the morning court session, Kaphale and Suleman had a heated argument on terminology used in the information and communications technology (ICT) profession, among other issues, as they related to computing of data in the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) system.
The AG focused his line of questions on whether Suleman, the sixth witness for second petitioner and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Lazarus Chakwera, was aware that Chakwera had election monitors who represented him and MCP at all levels of the result management process.
But Suleman, an IT professional, told the Constitutional Court that he could not take questions outside the sworn statement he filed and outside the evidence he concluded presenting in the court earlier in the day.
Regarding reliability of data punched into the system, the AG pleaded with the witness on the use of terminology to bear with him because he was not an IT expert.
Kaphale was cross-examining Suleman on whether the data was accurate, among other issues.
But Suleman, who came in the limelight for making a simulation of the results management system in court to demonstrate how the MEC system could have been compromised, could not take any questions regarding data accuracy.
The witness said what mattered most was that when data was entered into the system there should have been the integrity of results and not accuracy.
Suleman also maintained his position that the MEC system was insecure purportedly because unknown users he dubbed “ghosts” were logging in to upload results.
He also stood by his earlier presentation that IT experts at the electoral body logged into the system to upload results after MEC chairperson Jane Ansah had already announced the winner.
Despite the witness gently reminding the AG that his line of questioning was outside the agreed parameters on MEC system and tabulation of results, Kaphale continued to ask Suleman questions on whether he compared data or whether he presented any result sheet he believed its figures were manipulated.
The development forced the second petitioner’s lawyers to raise an objection.
In raising the objection on behalf of Chakwera’s legal team, Pempho Likongwe said: “We have the checklist on the parameter the witness should be cross-examined.
“We are looking at the probability of data input being transmitted at a certain speed. And we are looking at whether the transmission affected the result… So, I object that the witness should be cross-examined on issues of witness.”
Judge Mike Tembo, a member of the five-judge panel of the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court, sustained the objection. This confined the AG to ask questions within the sworn statement and the evidence Suleman presented in court.
Suleman’s cross-examination will continue today with lawyer Frank Mbeta, who is representing the first respondent President Peter Mutharika, taking over from the AG.
During the final presentation of the simulation exercise of data on Monday morning, Suleman presented that 4 846 result sheets were processed by unknown users whose first names were ‘Admin’ and the surname was ‘System’.
His simulation showed that only 126 result sheets were entered into the system by recognised officials, including MEC IT director Muhabi Chisi.
MEC, which is the second respondent, has since applied to the court to allow Chisi present his own simulation to counter-argue Suleman’s evidence.
The judges, who besides Tembo also comprise Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise and Redson Kapindu, will rule today of MEC’s application to have a simulation. In the case, Chakwera alongside first petitioner and UTM Party president Saulos Chilima are seeking nullification of presidential election results in the May 21 Tripartite Elections over alleged irregularities in the results management system. The petitioners are also seeking an order for a rerun.