Party preparations not halted by Zimbabwe’s court ruling

As ZANU-PF celebrate election victory in Zimbabwe once again, Modern African Historian Dr Heike Schmidt says there was never any doubt over the outcome, despite the opposition’s legal challenge to the election results.

According to reports from Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, the government started preparations for the presidential inauguration of Emmerson Mnangagwa hours before the Constitutional Court read its verdict on the opposition’s challenge to the August 2018 presidential election results.

That the court ruled in favour of Mnangagwa rather than to declare the elections flawed and to call for new elections within sixty days comes as no surprise to a nation that since 1980 has known only one ruling party, ZANU-PF.

The unanimous verdict handed down by the Constitutional Court, read by Chief Justice Malaba from 3.15pm Zimbabwe time, explains that the opposition party, the MDC-Alliance, did not have to prove that the ruling party or the sitting president were directly involved, only that the elections were indeed rigged.

It went onto emphasise that the MDC-Alliance failed to submit sufficient prove and instead of providing specific evidence merely made “bold claims”. Such “claims” include the affidavit by a medical doctor about an election officer who had refused to sign an unpopulated election result sheet for her voting station, i.e. she refused to verify final results for her station that had no numbers entered.

The night of the elections the officer was, with her husband, dragged from her rural home by masked men, badly beaten, gang raped and her husband was sodomised. The court dismissed this as a secondary source and hence unreliable. To a lay observer, evidence of such post-election violence is shocking and requires a full investigation.

However, one of the most important outcomes of the trial is probably that it was allowed to be broadcast live. The nation took decided interest, and while the general public struggled to follow the judicial proceedings, it was crucial to provide this transparency.

Meanwhile the president and the ruling party get ready to celebrate their election victory.

Heike Schmidt is Associate Professor in Modern African History at the University of Reading where she specialises in nineteenth and twentieth century Southern and East Africa. She is currently writing a history of nation and nationalism in Zimbabwe from the 1950s to the 1990s.