POLITICAL analysts say the decision by the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) led by Nelson Chamisa to abandon a planned court challenge against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s controversial re-election was a good move, given that Zimbabwe’s compromised judges were likely to rule against the party.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) declared that Mnangagwa won the presidential vote on 23 August with 52.6%, while Chamisa got 44% of the total votes cast. The remainder was split between other smaller parties.
While expectations were high that the opposition would go to court to challenge the results of the polls on the grounds that they were rigged while engaging in other political and diplomatic manoeuvres, CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi said the opposition party would not pursue litigation in its quest to set aside Mnangagwa’s controversial win, arguing that imbabwe’s courts are captured.
In an interview with The NewsHawks on Thursday, University of Zimbabwe political scientist Professor Eldred Masunungure said the party’s stance can be lauded based on the historical context, but he reiterated that the stakes remain high.
“If the decision to abandon the litigation route is viewed with a historical and contextual lens, it becomes the most logical and defensible albeit controversial one. In appealing the disputed Zec declaration to the Constitutional Court, in light of lessons from the recent past, CCC would have succumbed to ‘Einstein insanity’. . .” said Masunungure.
However, he pointed out that while the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the African Union could help the CCC in nullifying the rigged elections, it would be hardliners mostly in Zanu PF who could stand in the way.
“Nonetheless, the party and its leader find themselves boxed in the horns of a difficult dilemma from which there is no easy exit,” said Prof Masunungure.
“The best Sadc — with support from the AU, and possibly the UN — can do, is facilitate negotiations, hopefully leading to some inclusive political formula. The elephant in the room are the hardliners in both parties, especially in the ruling party.”
Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, concurred that the CCC is not going to get a reprieve in the courts, but he emphasised that the party must now sustain its opposition to Zanu PF.
“Given the way the courts were used in the build-up to the elections, an instrument to debar non-Zanu PF candidates from contesting the elections, there has been no reason for the CCC to suddenly believe they have changed,” Chan said.
“Having said that, the CCC may not, in fact, have sufficient numbers of V11s to sustain a challenge purely in formal evidence terms. The CCC was thinly stretched in the elections and the very late opening of polling stations and then their opening again for an extra day would have made scheduling in terms of agents’ time and alertness very difficult.”
But Chan said that the CCC must soldier on.
“People still have families to look after, even in an election. Basically, the CCC has now to sustain a political opposition, but in the full understanding that the majority of the world, and high opinion in Africa itself discounts the probity and honesty of these elections,” he said.
Political analyst Vivid Gwede told The NewsHawks that the biggest implication of the CCC’s decision not to go to court is that the party has avoided sanitising Mnangagwa’s stolen election via the compromised courts.
“The opposition further denied Mnangagwa an opportunity to legitimise his disputed election through the courts. There are credible reasons why the opposition should think the courts are captured which include the handling of past election disputes and cases in the run up to the election, controversial extension of the bench’s tenures through constitutional amendments and the controversial monies they were given ahead of elections,” Gwede said.
“The courts, for instance, failed to rule fairly on the issue of the voters’ roll and banning of the opposition rallies by the police. Zimbabweans therefore expect Sadc to act on its findings.”
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said CCC had done well, given the voter suppression in urban areas, intimidation of voters in rural areas, the gerrymandering of constituencies by Zec, the lack of transparency and accountability by the electoral commission, police banning CCC rallies and the activities of Faz in intimidating and politicising Zec.
“So, my take is that the opposition did so well and it increased its strength, rather than weakening. We tend to focus so much on the presidential election, but I think we also need to reflect on council and parliamentary elections. The opposition managed to stop a two-thirds majority by Zanu PF and also took control of all urban centres,” he said.
“The strategy going forward, of course, is a difficult one because we are dealing with a brutal authoritarian state which has captured key state institutions like the judiciary. So, there is no way that the judiciary under its current set-up is going to look at any electoral challenge that can threaten Zanu PF’s hold on power in a favourable manner. So, in essence, it is a waste of time for the opposition to go to court because the judiciary will always rule in favour of Zanu PF.
“Then, it is important that CCC as part of its push for broader governance reforms, including changes to the electoral process, pushes for engagement with Sadc. The observer mission report must be tabled by Sadc by the observer mission body, and recommendations emphasized upon so that Zanu PF and state institutions take into account all these issues in a reform process.
“So, I think there is no easy way out of the political crisis that Zimbabwe is in. There is no easy way for the opposition. Every option, including pushing for the involvement of the region and pushing for reforms at parliamentary level is needed and one can only wait for time hoping the path that the opposition takes will result in change of some sort.”
CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi said the party had dispatched envoys on a diplomatic offensive to push for fresh polls.
“We are following the political and diplomatic route to bring pressure to bear on Mr Mnangagwa and his Faz [Forever Associates Zimbabwe] to concede that there was no election and cooperate in line with Sadc guidelines to bring forth a fresh, free and fair election,” Mkwananzi said.
He was quoted by ZimLive.com as saying the CCC would also pursue mass protests. However, Mnangagwa said the country’s security forces are prepared to crush any uprising and jail those holding protests.
Among the few dignitaries who attended Mnangagwa’s inauguration were South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Mozambican counterpart Filipe Nyusi and the Democratic Republic of Congo leader Felix Tshisekedi.
Africa has 54 heads of state, 16 of them from Sadc.
Zambian President and leader of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Hakainde Hachilema, did not attend the inauguration while a final Sadc election observer mission report tabled to the regional bloc by team leader Nevers Mumba stated that the polls fell short of regional standards.
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi also did not attend the inauguration.
Zanu PF’s acting information director Farai Marapira is on the record as saying that by abandoning the legal route, Chamisa and his party had conceded that they lost the elections.