Presidential ballot papers in the May 21 Tripartite Elections are currently under inspection following a June 27 Constitutional Court ruling that Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) should give petitioners access.
In an interview yesterday, private practice lawyer Chikosa Silungwe, who is lead counsel for Saulos Chilima of UTM Party, the first petitioner in the case seeking nullification of the presidential election results over alleged irregularities, said the exercise started on Wednesday in Blantyre and continued yesterday.
He said: “The team will then move to Lilongwe where they will conduct similar exercises at Parliament warehouses before moving to Mzuzu. Thereafter, we will analyse what we have found as we build the case.”
The exercise, being coordinated by the office of the registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal, is restricted to lawyers of the two petitioners—Chilima and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera and respondents President Peter Mutharika and Malawi Electoral Commissioners—and other stakeholders.
During a visit to the warehouse in Blantyre rented by Parliament for keeping the ballots before their disposal, there was tight security with only specific and pre-cleared people allowed in.
Legal teams, court, Parliament and MEC staff were seen in the warehouse where ballot boxes and ballot papers are kept.
On June 27, the High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court ordered specific disclosures by the electoral body, including provision of documents on audited election results to the court within 11 days.
The petitioners also got the five-judge panel’s favour to have ballots and polling materials that would form part of the evidence in court safely kept by the Clerk of Parliament (CoP) under conditions of strict security.
The court also directed that parties to the case should exchange or serve each other relevant documents, including responses, before July 29 when hearing of the substantive matter to the case is set to start.
In an earlier interview, lawyer Frank Mbeta, the lead counsel for the first respondent Mutharika, said they did not object to the fresh applications by the petitioners because the issues at hand mostly concerned MEC.