Two of South Africa’s most high-profile counsel will star on the Zimbabwean opposition MDC Alliance’s legal team in a court drama set to challenge President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s election win.
The case was set down this week to be heard on Wednesday, 22 August, despite previous reported claims by the ruling Zanu-PF that the opposition had submitted their papers too late and that they had followed the wrong procedure.
Advocates Tembeka Ngcukaitobi and Dali Mpofu, who have acted in high-profile cases for opposition parties taking on the government in South Africa before, touched down in Harare just before noon on Friday, where they will be preparing for Wednesday’s case with three other counsel and a team of lawyers.
They are expected to argue that the Zimbabwe’s 30 July poll was rigged in a number of ways and that that it wasn’t free and fair because, among others factors, the state media was biased. They claim to have figures showing that the MDC Alliance’s Nelson Chamisa was really the winner of the poll, and should be declared as such, or alternatively they want a run-off election between the two candidates (this would have to happen next month) or a complete re-run of the elections.
Arguing against them on Wednesday will be a “dream team” of 12 lawyers assembled by Zanu-PF.
Mpofu and Ngcukaitobi were not available for comment on Friday morning, but Nqobizitha Mlilo said they would be finalising the court papers.
“We are confident of victory, we are confident that the case that we have put forward is unanswerable, and we hope that the court would do the right thing,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had declared Mnangagwa the winner of the presidential elections, with 50.8% of the vote, while Chamisa got only 44% of the vote. If Mnangagwa had received 40,000 fewer votes, his share of the vote would have been under 50% and there would have been a run-off.
The governing Zanu-PF’s spokesperson and secretary for legal affairs, Paul Mangawa, said the party would file papers to “safeguard the interest of the electorate”.
The party filed its papers this week following a dramatic last-minute filing of papers before the Friday close-of-business deadline for petitions by the MDC Alliance’s lawyers. Opposition lawyers are expected to attempt to score political points in the court case as the world’s eyes will again be on Zimbabwe following the elections and the state clampdown on the opposition that followed.
Next week’s court case is one of a raft of cases in the wake of a peaceful election with a violent aftermath.
Twenty-seven MDC activists and officials are still out on bail after they were arrested following chaotic protests on 1 August which turned deadly when soldiers opened fire and killed at least six protesters and onlookers.
People’s Democratic Party leader and Harare East MP, Tendai Biti is out on bail too after he attempted to seek asylum in Zambia last week because of attempts by law enforcers to arrest him and charge him with incitement for unlawfully announcing an opposition victory the day after the elections.
A team of Biti’s lawyers also appeared in court for contravening immigration laws and for attempting to help Biti following his unsuccessful crossing into Zimbabwe, and their case is ongoing.
Another case was brought by Biti’s lawyers in Lusaka, Zambia, is for contempt of court against police officials who ignored an order compelling them to let Biti into the country.
The police had also charged MDC Alliance national chairperson Morgen Komichi after he interrupted the announcement of election results two weeks ago, Zimbabwe’s Lawyers for Human Rights said on Friday.
Analysts have said that the chances of the opposition getting a fair hearing in the courts are slim, based on previous cases. The court has never found for the opposition in an elections case, and rulings from elections 16 years ago are still outstanding. DM