Court upholds Mnangagwa victory

Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court has upheld President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s victory in the July 30 election, dismissing opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s application to overturn the poll.

An inauguration will now be held on Sunday, as required by law.

A detailed ruling will be released in due course, said Chief Justice Luke Malaba, who heard the case together with eight other judges. The ruling was unanimous, with no dissenting judges.

The court ruled that Chamisa had failed to provide “clear, direct, sufficient and credible evidence that the irregularities that he alleges marred the election process materially existed. In other words, there was no proof of these irregularities as a matter of fact”.

In summary, this is what the court decided:

  • The applicant (Chamisa) didn’t provide enough proof to show that Mnangagwa did not get the required winning vote
  • ZEC’s adjustment of results was immaterial, as they did not force Mnangagwa below the 50 percent plus one vote needed to win
  • Chamisa should have called for a recount within 48 hours as required by law
  • Chamisa needed to present V11 forms to prove that ZEC figures were wrong
  • The applicant filed within seven days, but served respondents a day late. However, because of the importance of the case, the court allowed the case to proceed.

In his petition against the election, Chamisa had sought the court to have him declared the rightful winner of the poll or, alternatively, to set aside the election, which would have set off a fresh poll within 60 days.

In court, Chamisa’s lawyers detailed what they called widespread electoral fraud by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), claiming it had inflated Mnangagwa’s vote tally by 69 000 and that its revision of the results was evidence enough that the election had been rigged.

But the court was not convinced that Chamisa had presented enough evidence to prove that he had won the poll or to show that ZEC’s errors were enough to set aside the election and call for another vote.

In his ruling, Malaba stressed that the burden of proof was on the applicant, Chamisa, but that his lawyers had only brought general accusations without any “particularity and specifity”. Malaba said the standard of that proof has to be beyond reasonable doubt, but Chamisa had failed to cross that threshold.

Chamisa, ruled Malaba, had time to approach the Electoral Court to seek a recount within 48 hours, as provided for by the law.

“He chose not to exercise this right,” Malaba said.

The MDC Alliance’s failure to produce V11 forms, which carry tallies from each polling station, was a major weak point in Chamisa’s case. According to Malaba, had Chamisa produced these in court, they would have provided the evidence he needed to prove that ZEC numbers were wrong. They would have settled arguments on voter patterns, improbability of similar votes and accuracy of any ZEC tally.

Chamisa’s case had made ZEC’s adjustment of results – the commission did so three times – the centre of its arguments, with lawyer Thabani Mpofu famously calling it the “fulcrum and pith” of the matter. But in a key decision, the Bench ruled that the winning threshold was the 50% plus one vote, and any adjustments above that threshold did not change the winner. Malaba said adjustments were in fact provided for in the law.

In court, lawyers and officials for Mnangagwa celebrated after the judgment was read out.

Earlier, Chamisa spokesman Nkululeko Sibanda had told the media that the party was confident of winning the court case, but raised concern that the Government appeared to be already preparing for an inauguration.

On Twitter, MDC said it would respect the ruling but pursue “all constitutionally permissible avenues”.

President Mnangagwa welcomed the ruling, saying it showed Zimbabwe had a free judiciary. He reached out to Chamisa.