Zimbabwe opposition at court to lodge election appeal
Zimbabwe's MDC opposition party arrived at court on Friday to lodge a bid to overturn the results of the presidential election, which it alleges was rigged to ensure victory for Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Jameson Timba, a former MDC lawmaker, confirmed to reporters that an appeal would be filed as he walked through the entrance of the Constitutional Court in Harare, accompanied by party lawyers.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) alleges that President Emmerson Mnangagwa's slender victory in Zimbabwe's first election since the ousting of Rober Mugabe was rigged by the ruling Zanu-PF party and the election commission.
Mnangagwa, who is seeking to reverse Zimbabwe's economic isolation and attract desperately needed foreign investment, had vowed the elections would turn a page on Mugabe's repressive 37-year rule.
International monitors largely praised the conduct of the election itself, although EU observers said that Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe ally, benefitted from an "un-level playing field" and some voter intimidation.
Mnangagwa won the presidential race with 50.8% of the vote - just enough to avoid a run-off against the MDC's Nelson Chamisa, who scored 44.3%.
Chamisa has called the election results as "falsified and inflated" to ensure Mnangagwa won.
The MDC had until Friday to lodge its appeal - seven days after the results were announced.
Party lawyer Thanbani Mpofu last week said that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's figures "grossly, mathematically fail to tally".
He said the party had evidence "for the purposes, not just of mounting a credible and sustainable challenge, but that will yield a vacation of the entire process."
Analysts say that the legal challenge has little chance of success given the courts' historic tilt towards the Zanu-PF, which has ruled since independence from British colonial rule in 1980.
But the court action could delay Mnangagwa's inauguration, scheduled for Sunday.
The polls' aftermath has been marred by allegations of a crackdown on opposition members, including beatings and arrests.
On August 1, soldiers opened fire on MDC protesters, killing six people and sparking an international outcry.
Also on Friday, lawyers for senior opposition figure Tendai Biti asked judges to throw out charges against him over the protests against alleged election fraud, in a case raising further international concern about the new government.
Diplomats and election observers were present at the court hearing in Harare after Biti fled to Zambia but was handed back to Zimbabwean police despite claiming asylum.
He faces charges of inciting the protests last week by proclaiming victory for the opposition.
"Zimbabwe faces a terrible threat from a group of people that has no respect for the law," Biti, who was granted bail on Thursday, told the court.
Mnangagwa wrote on Twitter that Biti was released after he intervened personally in the case.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, established under the 2013 constitution, on Friday released a damning report into the post-election crackdown.
It said it had received numerous complaints of intimidation, often by men in military uniform, of voters thought to have backed the opposition.
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"The ZHRC has established that there is hunting down and harassment of polling agents for independent candidates and opposition political parties," it said.
In a joint statement on Thursday, the EU, US, Canadian and Australian missions to Zimbabwe urged authorities to guarantee Biti's safety and human rights.
They said they were "deeply disturbed by continuing reports that opposition supporters are being targeted by members of the Zimbabwean security forces".
The president, the Zanu-PF party and the electoral commission have denied all charges of cheating.