MDC Alliance presidential hopeful Nelson Chamisa faces his moment of truth today when his team of top local and regional lawyers take to the centre stage at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt), seeking to overturn President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa’s win and possibly force a re-run.
Advocate Thabani Mpofu will lead the assault on Mnangagwa’s victory and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s credibility, while also putting the judiciary to a stern test when the ConCourt’s full bench of nine judges sits to determine the youthful opposition leader’s presidential petition.
The matter will be beamed live after the State broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation got the sole right to live-stream so that all interested parties, both at home and abroad, could follow the proceedings.
The July 30 presidential electoral challenge has attracted international interest, with the Africa Judges and Jurists Forum dispatching senior personnel to observe the proceedings.
Sylvester Hashiti, who is part of Mpofu’s team of legal experts, said they were ready to handle the matter and argue their case before the ConCourt.
“You know that tomorrow [today] the matter is going to be determined on its substance. All the issues that we have raised from both parties are going to be dealt with by the court and the court has the time to consider everything which everyone has raised and to render judgment on all aspects,” he said.
Following a week of filing affidavits, bundles of evidence, counter heads of argument and teasing each other in the Press, the case has to first pass the technical trap set by both Zanu PF and Zec’s defence teams.
Both Zec and Zanu PF want the petition dismissed on grounds that it was filed out of time and further that Chamisa failed to serve them on time. These arguments are expected to dominate the opening stages of the hearing.
“A court has jurisdiction to deal with every issue raised and it has full capacity to deal with those points. The court will deal with each and every point that has been raised without doubt. You will see tomorrow [today] that is what it is about what will be the arguments,” Hashiti said.
Zanu PF’s legal secretary, Paul Mangwana, called on party supporters to look beyond the court case and begin preparations for victory celebrations and Mnangagwa’s inauguration ceremony.
“We are going to win this case. Our case is very strong and the spirit in the camp is very high. Victory is certain our supporters, should prepare for celebrations and inauguration,” he said.
Mangwana said Zanu PF lawyers would be hoping to kill the case on technical grounds. He, however, said it was likely that the matter would be heard on merit.
“If we kill it at that stage, we would be happy, but from the attitude of the Chief Justice [Luke Malaba], it’s likely that the matter will be heard and decided on merit and we are ready for that,” he said.
Chamisa, who garnered 44,3% of the votes against Mnangagwa’s 50,8% as announced by Zec, seeks to whittle his main rival’s lead using technical experts in Zimbabwe’s first televised court case.
“It is clear that Mnangagwa fell far short of the 50%+1 vote required to avoid a run-off. On Zec’s published results, Mr Mnangagwa avoided a run-off by a mere 31 830 votes.
However, the evidence presented shows that, at least 7 730 of these votes must be excluded due to double counting of polling stations, A further 8 944 has been removed from the tally by Zec. A further 9 592 votes for Mnangagwa at ‘ghost polling stations’ also to be disregarded,” Chamisa said in his heads of argument.
Led by Kenya’s mathematics, statistics and actuarial science professor, Edgar Ouko Otumba, whose thesis was on optimal strategies and territorial dominance in large populations, Chamisa would be seeking to discredit Zec’s results tallies.
Mnangagwa has dismissed Otumba as a novice in the field of statistics and the Zanu PF leader has hired his own expert, Douglas Hoto, the past president of Actuarial Society of Zimbabwe, fellow of actuaries of Scotland and holder of an Honours Degree in Mathematics, to defend his victory.
The battle will largely be between the mathematics gurus as they tear into figures and try to convince the courts that either Zec “cooked up the numbers” in favour of Mnangagwa or that all is well and the election figures should stand.
A team of statisticians and human rights advocates, Team Pachedu, has already poked holes on submissions presented in court by Hoto, saying his theories were not scientific or based on any mathematical grounding.
“There are traits of bias and laziness from a behavioural perspective. Mr Hoto was never up to the task as expected from his actuarial background. Reading between the lines tells a big story behind his unscientific and unstatistical Zanu PF defence,” Team Pachedu said.
Chamisa’s South African lawyers had by yesterday been accredited to get into the courtroom, but were yet to be cleared by the Justice ministry to argue the case.
Noah Manyika’s lawyer Jacob Mafume said they were now waiting for the Justice ministry and the High Court to clear advocates led by Dali Mpofu and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Welshman Ncube said the case will put the judiciary to test, given what he believes are the strengths of the petition filed by Chamisa.
“Having now read through all the papers filed by all parties in the ConCourt presidential election petition, me thinks it is the ConCourt itself which will be on trial on Wednesday (today). Will they have the courage to look at the evidence without fear or favour?” he asked rhetorically.
Meanwhile, police have barred people who will be attending the ConCourt proceedings from bringing electronic gadgets into the courtroom.
In a Press statement yesterday, police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said: “The Zimbabwe Republic Police wishes to inform the nation that people who will be attending the ConCourt on August 22-23, 2018 will not be allowed to carry electronic gadgets like cellphones, laptops, cameras or other recording devices.”