MDC Alliance challenge: ConCourt holds pre-trial meeting as Chamisa talks tough

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HARARE – Parties to the election petition by the MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa met today at the Constitutional Court Registry to consolidate the record in preparation for the hearing of the challenge on Wednesday.

The pre-trial meeting saw litigants with the help of justice officers defining the issues and determining the way the actual contestation will proceed.

The meeting was also held in compliance with an order issued last week by Chief Justice Luke Malaba at a case management meeting held in his chambers.

MDC Alliance legal team representative, Advocate Sylvester Hashiti said they are impressed with the preparations ahead of the hearing on Wednesday.

“So far so good, we are just waiting for the final day, we are seeing all going on well,” he said.

Zanu PF legal team representative, Tinomudaishe Chinyoka said they are ready for the hearing of the court challenge.

“We are always ready for any challenge and we anticipate everything to go well,” he said.

The meeting was held after the filing of all the necessary court papers for the challenge to ensure the record will be in order.

In two days’ time‚ Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court will sit to hear a challenge against the presidential election results brought nearly a fortnight ago by MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa‚ the 40-year-old challenger that stood against President Emmerson Mnangagwa‚ the 75-year-old incumbent‚ in the July 30 election.

It is the last stop in the long-drawn-out political contest that has put the nation on edge in the country’s first election without long-time former ruler Robert Mugabe.

Chief Justice Luke Malaba will lead a full bench of nine judges of the Constitutional Court. After the hearing‚ the nine justices will have until August 24 to announce their decision.

At a media briefing in Harare on Monday‚ Chamisa‚ was in his usual form — full of bravado and insistent that the Constitutional Court would declare him the winner of the polls.

He said his party had put a “strong case” before the top court.

His legal team boasts of high profile lawyers from South Africa that include advocates Tembeka Ngcuikaitobi and Dali Mpofu. The latest inclusion in his legal team is Jeremy Gauntlett SC.

Chris Mhike of Atherstone and Cook law firm and one of his lawyers on Friday applied for an exemption certificate from the Justice Minister‚ Ziyambi Ziyambi‚ in order for Gauntlett to be allowed to practice in the country and to represent Chamisa.

“Because of the sophisticated and specialised nature of the case‚ we intend to instruct an advocate with the expertise that we expect to be applied in advancing our client’s interests‚” said Mhike.

Chamisa said he was very happy that they had put together an A-Team of experienced‚ tested and veteran legal experts drawn from the best minds in the country and region.

“These are led by our finest and our best in terms of legal minds and this team has been working tirelessly to protect your victory. We do not expect to get anything less from them. Their assurances are as good as gold‚ victory is certain and change is coming‚” he said.

He claimed that Zanu-PF also did not have a two-thirds majority‚ even in the rural areas‚ and his party would soon be challenging about 40 constituencies won by Zanu-PF.

The high-profile nature of the case has seen authorities grant permission for it to be beamed live by the state broadcaster‚ the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC). The ZBC is allowed to sell its live feed to other broadcasters.

A notice from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) also said that main roads leading to the Constitutional Court would be closed from 5am until 9pm.

Walter Chikwanha‚ secretary of the JSC‚ said due to the small size of the Constitutional Court‚ only 50 people would be allowed inside‚ while a marquee would be erected outside that could accommodate up to 500 people.

“We have created an extension of the court that will be able to accommodate around 500 people. It will be for members of the public‚ press‚ diplomatic community and election observers who would want to witness the hearing‚” he said.

Meanwhile‚ the ruling Zanu-PF on Monday filed its heads of argument with the court. The MDC Alliance did the same at the weekend.

Ngcukaitobi and Mpofu flew in on Friday into Harare to “help prepare” the heads of argument for the party.

Paul Mangwana‚ the Zanu-PF secretary for legal affairs and a member of Mnangagwa’s legal team‚ said they were prepared for the court showdown.

Asked by journalists if he would accept the top court’s ruling even if it was not in his favour‚ Chamisa said he would first assess the process and then make an appropriate pronouncement.

“What we can’t do is before the fact to say we accept whatever comes. What if the verdict is to hang us? We have not asked for that kind of relief so why do you want us to just accept. We will wait for the adjudication of the matter‚” he said.

Parliamentary and civic rights watchdog Veritas Zimbabwe said the Constitutional Court had several options‚ including:

  • Confirmation of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission declaration on August 3 that Zanu-PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa had won the election with 50.8% of the votes;
  • Declaring the MDC Alliance’s Nelson Chamisa as the winner‚ even though the ZEC said he received only 44.3% of the votes;
  • Invalidating the election‚ in which case a new vote must be held within 60 days; and
  • Making another “just and appropriate” order.

Veritas said: “This could include a recount of votes‚ or a run-off if the court finds that none of the candidates had a 50%-plus-one-vote threshold.”