Mugabe to be inaugurated as president of Zimbabwe today after court rejects poll challenge

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will not attend swearing-in ceremony


Zimbabwe’s long-standing leader, Robert Mugabe, will once again be inaugurated as the country’s president today, after two legal challenges by the main opposition in relation to the disputed general election were thrown out of court.

On Tuesday the constitutional court ruled that the July 31st poll – which handed Mr Mugabe (89) his seventh term in office – was free and fair, dismissing the allegations of vote-rigging by the Movement for Democratic Change. This was despite the MDC dropping its case last Friday, after it claimed the courts were thwarting the party’s attempts to get a fair hearing.

Mr Mugabe won 61 per cent of the presidential vote compared to the 34 per cent secured by Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC’s candidate in the hotly contested poll. Mr Mugabe’s party Zanu-PF also hammered the MDC in the parliamentary race, winning a two-thirds majority in the 210-seat lower house.

Local election observers and opposition parties have called the polls extremely flawed, claiming up to one million Zimbabweans were disenfranchised. Western nations have also raised serious doubts over the vote based on these complaints.

However, the African Union and Southern African Development Community were less critical, with the latter accepting the result this week.

Separate case
In a separate case, the high court also ruled on Tuesday that it did not have jurisdiction to rule on an application brought by the MDC seeking the full details from the general election be made public by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

Mr Tsvangirai, who was Zimbabwe’s prime minister under the powersharing arrangement that ended with the July 31st election, will not attend today’s inauguration ceremony in protest over the rigging allegations, according to his spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka.

“Expecting Tsvangirai to attend the inauguration is like expecting a victim of robbery to attend a party hosted by the robber,” he said.

Today has been declared a public holiday so people can attend the swearing-in, which will be held in a stadium near the capital, Harare.

It promises to be more high-profile than in previous years, with at least 80,000 people expected to pack the stadium where they will be entertained by local and international music acts.

Mr Tsvangirai may also be facing a contempt of court charge after he said there was little difference between the judiciary and Zanu-PF.

He claimed judges were routinely appointed while he was prime minister without his consultation, which is a requirement by law.

High court judge Chinembiri Bhunu said that such “scathing and disparaging remarks concerning the entire judiciary of this country” would be referred to the National Prosecuting Authority so contempt of court charges could be considered.