22 August 2018

Zimbabwe: Tensions Fraught As Court Hears Zimbabwe Poll Challenge

Photo: ZBC
Zimbabwe Constitutional Court hearing.

Harare — Zimbabwe's judiciary, accused for its partisanship to the ruling party over the years, will today faces a litmus test as the country's Constitutional Court opens a much-anticipated hearing on a legal challenge by the opposition against President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa's election

The sitting is a result of a petition by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance accusing the beleaguered Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of rigging the outcome against its leader, Nelson Chamisa.

The party is disputing the announcement that Mnangagwa polled 50,8 percent of the vote to Chamisa's 44,3 percent in the July 30 poll.

ZEC, already under fire for the controversial manner in which it released the results, is again caught in a storm after admitting to a "data capture error" in the election results. This has reduced Mnangagwa's tally to 50,59 percent of the vote.

The organisation's blundering has preceded mounting tensions between the MDC Alliance and ruling Zimbabwe African National African Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

The government's declining to grant members of Chamisa's legal team based in South Africa, permits to work in Zimbabwe, have also stoked anxiety.

On the eve of the hearing, ZANU-PF has accused Chamisa of "intimidating" the Constitutional Court bench that will prese over the matter.

This follows Chamisa addressing the media in Harare, where he said he would mobilise Zimbabweans to ensure they protected their vote.

"The legal route is our first avenue. The second avenue is a political one," Chamisa said.

Patrick Chinamasa, ZANU-PF Secretary, claimed the sentiments were a continuation by the MDC Alliance leader of "declaring himself the inevitable winner well ahead of the polls and well before vote counting and the announcement of results as well as threatening spiralling violence should the vote go against him and, threatening to spoil matters for the eventual electoral winner."

"We now know these were not empty threats, given the tragic events of 1 August, 2018," Chinamasa said in reference to the protests that led to the killing of six protesters by the military in Harare.

ZANU-PF blames the rival party for fuelling the protests by pronouncing Chamisa as the winner, before the announcement by ZEC.

Prof. Jonathan Moyo, former cabinet minister and now a critic of the Mnangagwa administration, dismissed Chinamasa's sentiments as "rubbish."

"Even fools can see it's the Army-run ZANU-PF that's running scared and is intimidating the bench," Moyo claimed.

He also lambasted government for declining Chamisa's South African lawyers-Dali Mpofu, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, Mitchell Jason and Tapiwa Shumba-permission to work in Zimbabwe.

Only Jeremy Gauntlet was granted access as government argued there were some gaps to address but time was limited.

The court has 14 days, from August 13, to make a ruling on the MDC Alliance's Challenge.

Like the ZEC, the Zimbabwean judiciary is accused of aligning itself with the ruling party.

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