Today, all eyes will be glued to television sets as Zimbabweans keenly await the Constitutional Court election petition ruling scheduled for 2pm. Opposition supporters and the generality of the citizenry appear resigned to one inescapable conclusion: the court is unlikely to rule in favour of the applicant, Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition MDC Alliance, if Wednesday’s court submissions are anything to go by.
Although his lawyer Thabani Mpofu fought tenaciously in his corner and succeeded in discrediting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) as an election management body, the wheels seem to have come off due to a lack of “primary evidence”. Chamisa needed overwhelming evidence to get Mnangagwa’s disputed victory reversed, given the stance of the court, which subjected him to an inquisitorial grilling while appearing to let Zec and Mnangagwa’s lawyers off the hook.
While Chief Justice Luke Malaba should be commended for what seemed to be a liberal posture which went some way in allowing other judges to participate he, at times, made neutral observers cringe when he appeared overly determined to dismantle Chamisa’s case — inadvertently strengthening the hand of Zec and Mnangagwa’s attorneys in the process.
There is a legal dictum that “he who alleges must prove”, and we are alive to that timeless aphorism, but the sheer intensity of the grilling sometimes exceeded what is normally expected in such circumstances. We must remember that, unlike in previous cases of this magnitude, this was a televised courtroom. In light of this, members of the public had an opportunity to conclude for themselves whether the judiciary is as independent and impartial as it ought to be.
Our observations should not be seen as an attempt to influence the outcome of the case. Rather, it is a fair, accurate and objective observation of the processes and arguments of all parties involved.
In the post-election period, the biggest challenge for the Mnangagwa regime will be legitimacy and that, sadly, is going to be its Achilles heel. Notwithstanding the direction the ruling takes, underlying issues such as economic turmoil, low productivity, high unemployment and cash shortages will loom large.
Already, the signs are pointing to a bleak picture in the immediate term. Mnangagwa’s recent hiking of salaries for civil servants ranging from 17 to 22% just before the July 30 elections will further burden a fiscus which is reeling from a deficit exceeding US$2 billion. Inflation is now at 4,29%, the highest since 2012, with prices of basic commodities skyrocketing and further eroding the disposable incomes of long-suffering Zimbabweans. Despite taking over on the back of a military coup in November last year with promises of breathing life into the comatose economy, Mnangagwa has had no answers to the biting liquidity crunch and severe cash shortages that are having a devastating effect on the ability of business to import vital components.
His default response to the myriad of problems has been to the effect that Rome was not built in a day as the country’s economic crisis has worsened on his watch. But one wonders whether Rome will ever be built, given the glacial pace at which Mnangagwa’s administration has moved since last year.
Economic recovery or lack thereof will determine whether or not Zim moves ahead or slides backwards. A difficult road still lies ahead.