One day, maybe, we will know who won the Zim election
As Constitutional Court sits, police are ready to deal with any outbreaks of violence 'without fear or favour'
The Constitutional Court in Zimbabwe will on Wednesday be the final arbiter and end the long, drawn-out dispute over the winner of the presidential election held on July 30.
The dispute has resulted in a delay in the inauguration of a new president and put the country in limbo for nearly two weeks. There are also growing concerns of an outbreak of violence by authorities once the top court makes its ruling known.
According to the law, the Constitutional Court must make a ruling by no later than this Friday. Earlier this week, the police issued a statement that they were ready to deal with any outbreaks of violence “without fear or favour.”The precinct of the Constitutional Court has been cordoned off until Thursday. Several major roads in the city centre have also been closed. The Munhumutapa offices, the country’s seat of power which house the Office of the President and Cabinet whose occupation is being contested, are located opposite the top court’s building.
Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the MDC Alliance, filed his court challenge on August 10 against the presidential results announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). The electoral commission had the previous week declared incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa the winner of the election with 50.8% of the votes. Chamisa, who got 44.3% of the votes, said the election was not free and fair, among other concerns which he has raised.Few citizens would have imagined that the contest to become president in the first election without Robert Mugabe would have spilled into the courts. A poll survey conducted by Afrobarometer early last month hinted that a neck and neck contest loomed on election day.
Had the election gone into a run-off, the second round of voting would have been held on September 8. But now the decision over the winner of the presidential election rests with the full bench of nine judges of the Constitutional Court led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba.
Ahead of the top court’s sitting, several lawyers in Harare praised Malaba and said that within the country’s legal fraternity he was held with “the highest of respect.” The election petition brought by the MDC Alliance is widely seen by political observers as an acid test of the independence of the judiciary. At times the judiciary has come under fire for its alleged close links to the ruling Zanu-PF party.Parliamentary and civic rights watchdog Veritas Zimbabwe said the Constitutional Court had several options at hand which include:
Confirmation of the ZEC declaration on August 3 that Zanu-PF’s Mnangagwa had won the election with 50.8% of the votes;
Declaring the MDC Alliance’s Chamisa as the winner, even though the ZEC said he received only 44.3% of the votes;
Invalidating the election, in which case a new vote must be held within 60 days;
Making another “just and appropriate” order. Veritas said: “This could include a recount of votes or a run-off if the court finds that none of the candidates had a 50%-plus-one-vote threshold.”
But while the spotlight will be on the top court, eyes will also be on how the MDC Alliance’s Chamisa receives the verdict should it not be in his favour. Throughout the election season Chamisa has insisted that he would never accept a result that did not confirm him the winner. The mantra of the opposition has been to “defend the vote”.
On Monday, when asked by journalists at a press briefing if he would accept the top court’s ruling even if it was against him, Chamisa said he would have to first assess the process and then make an appropriate pronouncement.“What we can’t do is before the fact to say we accept whatever comes. What if the verdict is to hang us? We have not asked for that kind of relief so why do you want us to just accept? We will wait for the adjudication of the matter,” he said.
He has hired three of SA’s sharpest legal minds: Advocates Dali Mpofu SC, Tembeka Ngcuikaitobi, and Jeremy Gauntlett.
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation has been granted permission by the Constitutional Court to be the sole broadcaster from inside the courthouse. As the sole licensed broadcaster, the ZBC is selling its live feed at $13,073 (R187,000) for TV broadcasters and $5,217 (R74,000) for radio broadcasters.
Media watchdog Misa Zimbabwe on Tuesday said its application filed to the Constitutional Court to be allowed to live-stream the court case was dismissed...