The legal team representing MDC-Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa filed their petition challenging the presidential election results at the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe.
Chamisa has alleged the results were manipulated by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to ensure that Zanu-PF leader and President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa won.
ZEC declared that Mnangagwa won the election with 50.8 percent of the vote while Chamisa was said to have come second with 44.3 percent of the vote.
The filing of the petition also means Mnangagwa’s inauguration, which had been scheduled for Sunday, will have to be cancelled until the court renders a decision on the matter. Mnangagwa’s inauguration will take place 48 hours after the Constitutional Court announces its decision.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is among many African leaders scheduled to attend the ceremony.
The Constitutional Court has 14 days from the day the presidential challenge is lodged to render a decision. The decision, in this case, would be final.
Legal watchdog Veritas advises that the Constitutional Court can decide on the matter in the following ways:
- It can declare a winner, which means it can confirm the ZEC’s declaration or declare Chamisa the winner;
- It can invalidate the election, like what happened in Kenya, in which case a fresh election must be held within 60 days – note this probably means a new election rather than a run-off, or;
- It can make any other order it considers just and appropriate. This is very broad, and could cover:
- Ordering a run-off election, if the court finds that none of the candidates, in fact, gained 50 per cent or more of the votes; or
- Ordering a recount of the votes, if the applicant has asked for this.
Zanu-PF secretary for finance Patrick Chinamasa earlier in the week revealed that the party has assembled a 12-man legal team to respond to the challenge.
“Zanu-PF has assembled a 12-member legal team to prepare responses to the unwarranted litigation being threatened by the MDC-Alliance leader Chamisa challenging the validity of the presidential vote,” Chinamasa said.
“Zanu-PF will defend the will of the Zimbabwean people as expressed through free, fair, transparent and credible elections that took place on 30 July.”
Some of the lawyers who filed the papers for Chamisa include, Chris Mhike, Douglas Coltart, Advocate Thabani Mpofu, Advocate Dali Mpofu and Advocate Sylvester Hashiti.
The MDC reported that its foreign lawyers had initially been denied entry into the Constitutional Court on work permit grounds. However, they were cleared after the Law Society confirmed that it had verified their international licences
Courts favour ruling party?
Analysts say the legal challenge has little chance of success given the courts’ historic tilt towards the ZANU-PF, which has ruled since independence from British colonial rule in 1980.
The polls’ aftermath has been marred by allegations of a crackdown on opposition members, including beatings and arrests.
On August 1, soldiers opened fire on MDC protesters, killing six people and sparking an international outcry.
Also on Friday, lawyers for senior opposition figure Tendai Biti asked judges to throw out charges against him over the protests against alleged election fraud, in a case raising further international concern about the new government.
Diplomats and election observers were present at the court hearing in Harare after Biti fled to Zambia but was handed back to Zimbabwean police despite claiming asylum.
He faces charges of inciting the protests last week by proclaiming victory for the opposition.
“Zimbabwe faces a terrible threat from a group of people that has no respect for the law,” Biti, who was granted bail Thursday, told the court.
Mnangagwa wrote on Twitter that Biti was released after he intervened personally in the case.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, established under the 2013 constitution, on Friday released a damning report into the post-election crackdown.
It said it had received numerous complaints of intimidation, often by men in military uniform, of voters thought to have backed the opposition.
“The ZHRC has established that there is hunting down and harassment of polling agents for independent candidates and opposition political parties,” it said.
In a joint statement on Thursday, the EU, US, Canadian and Australian missions to Zimbabwe urged authorities to guarantee Biti’s safety and human rights.
They said they were “deeply disturbed by continuing reports that opposition supporters are being targeted by members of the Zimbabwean security forces”.
The president, the ZANU-PF party and the electoral commission have denied all charges of cheating.