The constitutional court of Zimbabwe is expected to pass its final judgement over a highly disputed election result which according to the country’s opposition was fraught with inflated figures, ballot stuffing, intimidation, ghost voters and non-existent polling stations.
The battle on the legitimacy of the vote has tipped the president-elect, Emmerson Mnangagwa against the Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance’s (MDC-A) Nelson Chamisa.
Both set up their dream teams of lawyers who faced off in the constitutional court this week in what played out to be a blood-bath of legal minds, both disputing each other’s heads of arguments.
Chamisa alleges that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) got in bed with the ruling ZANU PF to create an unleveled playing field and later cooking up election results that propelled Mnangagwa to the highest office.
According to the official announcement, he won 50.8% of votes, compared to 44.3% for the MDC-A
Although Mnangagwa’s camp has vehemently disputed allegations of fraud as malicious, unfounded and not supported by incontrovertible evidence, his inauguration had to be stopped right in its tracks to give leeway for the courts to decide the fate of the country’s leadership.
Today’s highly anticipated judgement, therefore, after Wednesday’s court battle, means a lot for a majority of Zimbabweans and especially for the fighting parties who are, until then, in limbo.
Yet judging by the trends, a quick glimpse into the election histories of modern democracies shows that opposition parties seldom land court victories when and where election result contestation happens.
A mere ruling in favour of the opposition which annulled results in Kenya sent chaos right across the country and yet the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta retained his hold to power.
But that was not before the presiding judge had to be vilified for his landmark ruling, which was a first for the region.
For political analyst and columnist Ndumbah Kamwanya, these trends still do not make the prediction of today’s judgement easy to come by.
“For an opposition party to challenge the election and win, it’s an impossible task but I am impressed by how those judges were handling the game and I could see that they had impartiality and neutrality in their heart. I hope that’s what’s going to prevail.”
“They gave people enough time and they even checked whether they had that time to finish their turns and all those things. So we will see, I will not put my money and predict but I think they will act more impartially,” he told this publication.
The opposition camp, represented by a legal team led by prominent lawyer, Thabani Mpofu, submitted that inconsistences marring the election process included, ballot stuffing and swapping, rogue security elements frog-marching people to vote, biased public media and fictitious votes counted in favour of the incumbent.
Allegations are also such that several polling stations had shown identical results all in favour of Mnangagwa, which according to them, raised eyebrows.
“ZEC has come out with a figure which was not verified by anyone. It is now up to ZEC to establish the veracity of that figure. So, my Lord, the key case of the applicant is not based on extrapolations as the respondents would have the court believe. The key case of the applicant is based on ZEC’s own figures and data which are wrong,” Mpofu submitted.
However, one of Mnangagwa’s lawyers, Lewis Uriri, in a bid to trash the application, said the MDC-A was not basing its allegations with evidence.
He weighed in by challenging why Chamisa had not opened the ballot-boxes soon after the voting to establish if results had indeed been cooked, a point which the judges also echoed.
His legal team questioned why the opposition had not called the private media to order for its biases in Chamisa’s favour but saw it pertinent to do so to the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation and state-controlled press.
They called on the court to revert back to the original ballot papers as primary evidence rather than forms Mpofu and crew were flaunting as evidence of cooked results.
Yet for Mpofu and team, ZANU PF and ZEC had conspired to cover up their irregularities and thus to base on the original ballot boxes would be to dare drink from a “poised chalice”.
But the judges seemed to have none of it, “We want to drink from the poisoned chalice,” said the chief justice, Luke Malaba.
Uriri trashed the V11 forms containing polling station results which Mpofu showed the court as proof of rigged results as mere “documents of mysterious origin.”
He further demanded the opposition to give out the names of the so-called rogue security elements of intimidation and to give the names of places and dates where these occurred.
“We are confident that we have established that the application is frivolous. It is brought for purposes other than the litigation before the court, it’s meant for a show elsewhere, definitely not in legal matters. What carries the day in legal matters are facts and they have not given any facts,” said Uriri in front of journalists after the court grilling.