Zimbabwe vote dispute in hands of ConCourt

Zimbabwe president-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa has defended the landmark election in which he was declared victorious, despite claims from the opposition of vote rigging.
Zimbabwe president-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa has defended the landmark election in which he was declared victorious, despite claims from the opposition of vote rigging.
Image: AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI

Over the next two weeks, all eyes will be on Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land, led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba, which is to decide on disputed presidential election results.

The court's judgment, which must be made within two weeks, is final and cannot be contested any further.

However, most judges who will form part of the decision were appointed by former president Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe did not support his party Zanu-PF, which won the elections that are being disputed by the MDC Alliance.

The judiciary is widely seen as the last stop in resolving the long drawn-out political contest in the first election held after Mugabe's fall from power in November.

Zanu-PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner of the election by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) with 50.8% of the vote. MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa was the runner-up with 44.3% of votes.

The announcement of the results led to MDC Alliance leaders and supporters showing unhappiness and taking to the streets in protest.

Piers Pigou, the Southern Africa director of the International Crisis Group, said the election challenge put before the top court would be a test on its independence and quality.

"The case will be a further test of the Constitutional Court's independence and the quality of its legal argument. There are concerns of inherent bias towards Zanu-PF; these are not without foundation. A number of adverse rulings ahead of the polls compounded these concerns," said Pigou.

"But the relationship between many judges and Zanu-PF is blatantly obvious and its telling that there has not been a single successful election petition since 2000. We are still waiting for the reasoning behind their decision against the MDC in 2002. As with the electoral commission, certain key aspects of Zimbabwe's courts do not overwhelm one with confidence."

Dali Mpofu and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi will represent the MDC Alliance in court.
Dali Mpofu and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi will represent the MDC Alliance in court.
Image: Gallo Images / Cornel van Heerden

The MDC Alliance on Friday filed its court papers to challenge Mnangagwa's victory, a move that saw the cancellation of the presidential inauguration that was supposed to take place yesterday. The MDC Alliance wants the results to be overturned.

It has roped in top South African legal minds, advocates Dali Mpofu and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, as part of its legal team.

"The case looks solid based on the facts at our disposal at this stage," Ngcukaitobi said.

The ruling Zanu-PF, which won a two-thirds majority in the election, said it had assembled its "legal dream team" of 12 lawyers to challenge the MDC Alliance.

"We are confident of winning this case because the matters raised are political rather than legal," said Paul Mangwana, Zanu-PF's secretary for legal affairs.

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