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The Failed Legal Challenge to Mugabe’s Election

The Failed Legal Challenge to Mugabe’s Election

Robert Mugabe was re-elected as the president of Zimbabwe, which put ZANU-PF back in political power. Following the elections, the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai, refused to accept the outcome of the election based on the proposition that the elections were unfair and they appealed for the re-election of Mugabe to be nullified.

It seems that with the little support they were getting, MDC gave in and surrendered.

The legal challenge was set to begin on Saturday 17 August, but the opposition party withdrew their appeal the day before. Their reason for withdrawing the appeal was because they could not gain access to the sufficient electoral evidence to commence with their case. They had little support from the African Union, who said that the inconsistencies were not enough to overturn the results of the election. This was followed by a statement from South Africa, which is Zimbabwe’s closest neighbour, where President Jacob Zuma stated that the MDC should just accept defeat. It seems that with the little support they were getting, MDC gave in and surrendered. In accordance with the constitution, this means that Mugabe can now be officially inaugurated for a further term of 5 years, and of course Mugabe is back in power.

With such a landslide victory you would expect victorious celebrations from citizens within the country and congratulatory speeches from neighbouring countries – in reality this was not the case at all. In fact, the world seemed to be unimpressed by the turn out of the elections and rumours are circulating about how Mugabe had manipulated the elections. This is despite the recent referendum of the constitution which seemed to indicate development to democracy. This was an unexpected outcome given the human rights violations that have been committed and broadcasted around the world under the rule of Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party.

Development towards democracy

Under the African Union Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa (2002), Zimbabwe was required to hold a democratic election in accordance with the treaty. According to the claims, this has not been the case. There have been accusations of rigging the elections and bribery amongst Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) and ZANU PF, and suspicions have been raised by other nations around the world that this was not a fair election. It has also been claimed that some people voted for ZANU PF multiple times under different names, which is fraudulent under the new constitution.

The South African Development Community (SADC) was in charge of ensuring that they prevented the reoccurrence of violent attacks such as those that took place back in the 2008 election. SADC urged the MDC not to appeal on the premise that the elections had been peaceful, but it seems here that SADC were prioritising peace rather than a fair election when both of them should be equal.

It is good that the SADC managed to maintain peace, but such an authority should know better than to have encouraged Mugabe in the outcome of unfair elections. The credibility of the elections was analysed based on the conduct of the parties and the way the elections were held before, during and after the elections.

The appeal by the MDC initially meant that Mugabe could not be sworn in officially as president until a decision had been finalised.

The appeal by the MDC initially meant that Mugabe could not be sworn in officially as president until a decision had been finalised. If Mugabe had played along with the rules of the game, no one would have had any qualms about the elections. However, back in 2008, the world observed as a violent and vigorous election took place which led to Mugabe winning. Mugabe almost got away with it, but for the first time the leaders of Africa decided to stand up against Mugabe and refused to accept the outcome of the election. Instead, Mugabe had no choice but to form a coalition with Morgan Tsvangirai, who is the leader of MDC.

There were high hopes that Tsvangirai would use this opportunity and the power he had to implement more democratic policies and influence a larger mass of people. At the end of it all, Tsvangirai has done almost nothing. He has managed to predominantly be in the headlines for non-political reasons and he may as well have not been part of the coalition. As a result, the coalition allowed Mugabe to reorganise his political party and policies, consequently leaving Morgan Tsvangirai with weaker policies and ultimately vulnerable in comparison.

From that perspective it may be better that Mugabe stays in power, even though it is not ideal, it is the best option Zimbabwe has.

Furthermore, the majority of ZEC are ZANU PF loyalist meaning that MDC had little impact in practice, Morgan Tsvangirai had the time to win these people over or make sure there was a more neutral electoral commission to carry out the elections. According to the new constitution, in the event that the appeal had been successful, there would have been a re-election again in 60 days, if the appeal had been denied then Mugabe would have been sworn in as president within 48 hours.

The fact that Morgan Tsvangirai had the window of opportunity to share power with Mugabe and more or less did nothing indicates that maybe he is not the best candidate to overtake Mugabe. Some may argue that if he is not capable enough to recognise such an opportunity, he is not capable of running a country by himself. From that perspective it may be better that Mugabe stays in power, even though it is not ideal, it is the best option Zimbabwe has.

The world has seen this cycle too many times where Mugabe manages to steal the election. Morgan Tsvangirai had the chance but he didn’t take it, and so the cycle begins again. It is up to the citizens of Zimbabwe and those in diaspora to change the future of the country. The intervention of the African Union will only undermine the sovereignty of the country who after many years of struggle and war managed to gain independence.

Maud Kadye is an intern at The Student Lawyer and prospective Masters student of Nottingham Law School. Her legal interests centre around international politics, human rights, human trafficking and immigration.

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