HARARE – Nelson Chamisa, leader of the MDC Alliance, has said he will not accept the results of the hard-fought and blood-soaked July 30 election.
According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) he lost, but could Chamisa legally challenge the results? And how would that process work?
According to leading domestic fact-checking portal, ZimFact, in terms of Zimbabwe’s Constitution, a court challenge against a presidential election must be lodged at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) within seven days after the declaration of the results.
This means the opposition leader has up to Friday to file his court application.
The ConCourt must hear and determine the petition or application within 14 days after the petition or application was lodged.
The ConCourt’s decision is final.
Zimbabwe has a long history of contested elections.
And those are often close elections, so you have a variety of appeals.
But we have never had a major party candidate far in advance of an election saying that the only legitimate outcome is only his own victory like what Chamisa said.
That was unprecedented.
What he should have said is what every major, indeed every presidential candidate before him has said, which is, I will accept the outcome. And then, after the election, if there is some evidence that the election was tainted by fraud, then he could pursue that.
But by saying that, two weeks before the election, he undermined the legitimacy of the election and the individuals who it elects.
And it’s very dangerous and it’s destructive to the country, no wonder why that message was not received well by many people. This is not to disregard the disgraceful manner in which Zec ran the process.
There have been contested elections and really fiercely fought elections with a lot of bad feelings almost since the beginning of the republic.
What those have always produced is, with one pretty big exception, is the peaceful transition of power no matter how flawed the process was.
That exception, of course, is 2008, where the losing Zanu PF engaged the army to go on a murderous orgy, with results withheld for five weeks as the regime tinkered with ballots to fix the matrix of a runoff.
But with that pretty big exception, everyone, despite challenges, ultimately come around with the formation of a government of national unity.
Now, in 2018, Chamisa reserves the right to file a legal challenge to the questionable result.
It’s the most reasonable thing for him to do.
The winner of the election, president-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa, has urged him to contest the result in the courts.
But, he needs to waive this right.
He doesn’t need to claim that right at all.
By doing so, he will be lending legal legitimacy to the poll result.
He must instead pursue megaphone diplomacy, even though it’s a long shot given that the chairman of the Southern African Development Community Cyril Ramaphosa has already endorsed Mnangagwa.
Chamisa, of all people, as an advocate of the High Court, knows pretty well any judge assigned to a case pitting the government against any opposition groups, but especially against the MDC Alliance, will no doubt face overwhelming pressure from the Executive branch to ignore the rule of law and side with the government, regardless of the evidence.
There is a consensus both inside and outside Zimbabwe that the post-coup regime is not a democracy any more.
In the wake of the coup, it is impossible not to see that the country is being driven off a cliff as there is no independent judiciary; basic human rights like right of assembly, are constantly violated with soldiers killing unarmed civilians in the streets, the media barred from attending a news conference of the biggest opposition leader in the country.
There is rampant fear and oppression, the capital city’s central business district is being patrolled by soldiers with apparent discord between the securocracy and the bureaucracy and the country gradually becoming introverted and buried in its darkness.
Everybody sees it.