Opposition leader in Zimbabwe challenges election results in Constitutional Court

After what many believed to be fraudulent elections, Nelson Chamisa leader of the MDC Alliance is contesting the victory of Emmerson Mnangagwa of ZANU-PF, and many expect that whatever the decision is, there will be confrontations on the streets

August 22, 2018 by Zoe Alexandra
Several people were injured during election protests in Zimbabwe on 1 August 2018. (Photo Thomas Holder/EWN)

On July 30, acting president Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ZANU-PF Party (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front) faced off against Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance (Movement for Democratic Change). The preliminary results released on August 1 by the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) showed that Mnangagwa of ZANU-PF, the incumbent president, was in the lead, and the official results released on August 3 confirmed that trend. The supporters of the MDC Alliance took to the streets immediately protesting what they saw as electoral fraud and a continuation of the same system and status quo while the army and police repressed the protests with violence on the streets.

The July 30 elections were the first elections in Zimbabwe since the political crisis in November which led to the resignation of the president of 37 years Robert Mugabe. The political crisis began when Mnangagwa’s was fired by Mugabe, in response massive protests broke out and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) occupied key areas of the city. This situation led to the party of both Mugabe and Mnangagwa, ZANU-PF, to release a statement where they demanded the resignation of Mugabe and threatened that he would face impeachment if he did not do so. Mugabe resigned and Mnangagwa took over as president.

Just over a week after the elections, on August 10, Nelson Chamisa filed a case with the Constitutional Court to challenge Mnangagwa’s victory. Mnangagwa’s swearing in ceremony was postponed until the final decision of the court. Today the Constitutional Court will address Chamisa’s case where they can confirm Mnangagwa’s victory, declare Chamisa winner or call for new elections.

To understand the impact of the court’s decision today, Peoples Dispatch spoke with Ady Mutero General Secretary of the United Food and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe (UFAWUZ) about the possible outcomes.

“Of the three scenarios, I do not foresee the court proclaiming Chamisa the winner. The government would not allow such a verdict, and that leaves us with two possible scenarios. One is to confirm the Mnangagwa’s victory and this is a highly likely outcome that they could simply just confirm his victory. There are some chances for a run off, maybe this can be achieved given the attention this matter is being given locally and internationally. Dozens of lawyers across the world, media houses across the world are coming to witness the process of the court and the proceedings of the court will be broadcast live. This is a matter of national and international interest and as such there is a possibility that because of the scrutiny the interests of various stake-holders, the judges or judiciary may be forced to apply their legal minds in determining the matter.”

However, Mutero clarifies that due to the composition of the court and the process of appointment, there is ample possibility for bias by the judiciary: “If you look at the composition of the judiciary, and more so at the constitution of Zimbabwe it states that the appointing authority is the president of the country, in other words, the members of the constitutional court bench are serving at the request of the president, so its independence is highly compromised. This is one of the unequal systems of our latest constitution.”

Whatever the verdict, many believe that the decision of the Constitutional Court will be a tipping point for Zimbabwe. Mutero commented that “Either way, even if it will be a runoff or a confirmation of Mnangagwa victory, we are likely going to see economic disintegration, social unrest, victimization of opponents by the ruling party and the persecution of opposite political characters will be worse if the courts are to call for a re-run. Already the behavior of the contestants is telling, the MDC Alliance is actually preparing its members so is ZANU-PF, so the situation now going forward will be between ZANU-PF and MDC Alliance. It will not surprise me to see this confrontation happening immediately after the pronouncement of the judgement. Mnangagwa and the MDC Alliance have already hinted and warned at the possibility of direct confrontation.”