The Constitutional Court will today hear the petition by MDC Alliance leader Mr Nelson Chamisa in which he is challenging President Mnangagwa’s victory in the July 30 harmonised elections.
President Mnangagwa garnered 50,8 percent of the total votes cast, while his party, Zanu-PF won 145 seats in the National Assembly, more than two-thirds majority. On the other hand, Mr Chamisa got 44,3 percent of the vote, his coalition winning 63 seats in Parliament.
Nine judges of the apex court led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba will hear the petition. They will decide if it is indeed true that the presidential election, as Mr Chamisa claims, was rigged.
For the first time in the country’s judicial history, the petition would be broadcast live on Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation to enable the world to witness proceedings and arguments in real time.
In his papers, President Mnangagwa, through his lawyers, is arguing that there is no valid petition because papers filed by Mr Chamisa’s lawyers are littered with errors and also that the applicant failed to meet the required filing and serving requirements. He wants the petition to be thrown out with costs on those grounds and that he be declared the winner of the presidential election.
If the court decides to consider the merits of the case, the President will argue that the application is bereft of any since it is based on secondary sources of information — the bulk of which was downloaded from social media — and statistical models that have no direct relevance to the case in point. He says the only reasonable argument that the applicants could have advanced to build a strong case was to secure a court order for the ballot boxes to be unsealed and votes recounted.
However, that route is closed for Mr Chamisa as the 48 hours that are permitted by law for a recount to be done has long lapsed since the July 30 election.
“The applicant (Mr Chamisa) has not mounted this application for the bona fide purpose of setting aside the result of the presidential election conducted on 30 July 2018,” the President argues.
“The intention was to delay my inauguration as the duly elected President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and to make political statements in court. This is apparent from the fact that the application does not comply with the rules of the honourable court and the Constitution.”
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and its chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba – also cited as respondents – will argue that the petition is “fatally and incurably defective” to nullify the results.
Today’s hearing, just as the election that precipitated it, is very important for our country. Every Zimbabwean, every potential investor, every country, everyone with an interest in Zimbabwe has been waiting for it. Many key decisions are waiting for what the court will decide after today. Potential investors need to know with certainty who the winner of the election was, thus they will only decide whether to invest or not after Chief Justice Malaba and his team pronounce themselves. International partners will not move in before the court decides. Citizens are keen to hear the direction that the country will take and will make big decisions on their lives after today.
But as we await the moment Chief Justice Malaba will announce the bench’s decision, our people are encouraged to remain calm. They must continue like that after the court makes its decision.
For those who might be tempted to break the law, police and other security services will be heavily deployed in Harare to deal with them. This is critical not only given the high-profile nature of the hearing but also the risk of public violence such as was triggered by Mr Chamisa’s party on August 1 and his continuing threats against the ConCourt judges.
He has threatened unspecified action if the court rules the other way. We condemn this dangerous rhetoric. It is this kind of rhetoric that incited his supporters to burn cars and loot shops on August 1 when it became apparent that his party was losing the election. The violence left six people dead, dozens more injured and valuable property destroyed.
However, we are optimistic that nothing of that sort will happen as police and other law enforcement agents have deployed around the capital. The last time there was violence, many police officers were still posted at polling centres across the country, thus the strength of those in Harare at that time was thin. Now they are back to base and should be able to deal with any elements that might want to cause chaos today and after the court announces its decision.