Malawian legal scholar based at the at South Africa’s Cape Town University, Professor Danwood Chirwa has stated that the testimony by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) IT expert and witness in the on-going elections case, Daud Suleman, on Friday was “hugely devastating”.
Professor Danwood Chirwa: Suleman managed to turn the case on its head at this point Suleman: IT expert who has given ‘devastating’ testimony
He said Suleman’s simulation in court on how Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) computerised election result management system (RMS) was allegedly breached by a ‘ghost’ operator to change the results of the presidential elections in favour of incumbent Peter Mutharika “managed to turn the case on its head at this point” saying “the burden [to prove] has now shifted”.
Said Chirwa: “He so powerfully delivered his testimony with the aid of simulation and demonstration, that he left the judges with a clear understanding of what happened.”
Chirwa said Suleman had demonstrated that the IT system which the commission used was “insecure, was manipulatable and was, in fact, manipulated.”
He pointed out that Suleman demonstrated his expertise by arranging and explaining the simulations and their application so effortlessly.
“He is mega credible,” Chirwa said a witness to second petitioner Lazarus Chakwera.
Suleman further provided evidence to back a theory that the results were not credible.
The law professor said Suleman has shown that the IT system which the electoral body used was insecure, manipulatable and was in fact manipulated.
“Reliance on it to pronounce the results, he labored to show, affected the integrity of the entire electoral process and final outcome.
“Expert evidence is a unique piece of evidence. The court has to accept it in its totality unless the opposing party produces its own expert to impeach it,” pointed out Chirwa.
Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale, who is representing MEC, said MEC’s legal team said the public will hear its response when cross examination starts this Monday afternoon.
But Chirwa said the witness has set “a very high bar” for the respondent’s expert, who has to prove that the IT system the commission used was impregnable and that it was not in fact breeched.
He said it is always a tough job cross examining expert witnesses.
The law professor said if MEC decide to take Suleman head on, the cross examination could bolster his claims as it can allow him further opportunities to explain the problems with the MEC’s system.
“The wise thing could be to cut the cross short and let MEC’s own expert counter the witness later if they have an equally credible and knowledgeable expert,” he said.
Chirwa said there has been objective material evidence so far as the petitioners have labored to paint the picture that a considerable number of tally sheets at streams and polling stations were altered, that some were not signed by monitors, that duplicates were used. And that they have shown that the IT platform from which the results were declared lacked integrity.
“Much of the response to the first line of the petitioners’ case has been to concede that these irregularities happened. What those of us outside court can’t work out is what these irregularities translate to in terms of their impact on the result. The commission has practically admitted all these irregularities but has been trying to explain them away by trying to argue that the altered or duplicate sheets were signed by monitors or that their results match other data, or shifting the blame to monitors..” he noted.
Chakwera’s lead lawyer Modecai Msisha said Suleman, who returns to the witness stand this Monday, had demonstrated clearly how the elections were manipulated, saying the demonstration was “very firm and specific” on its evidence.