Zimbabwe court confirms Mnangagwa's disputed presidential election win

Zimbabwe's constitutional court confirmed President Emmerson Mnangagwa's disputed July 30 election victory on Friday, dismissing an opposition challenge that had held up his inauguration, which will now be held on Sunday.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa calls for peace after highly anticipated ruling

Supporters of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa's ruling ZANU-PF party celebrate in Harare after the country's constitutional court confirmed the disputed July 30 election results Friday. (Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters)

Zimbabwe's constitutional court confirmed President Emmerson Mnangagwa's disputed July 30 election victory on Friday, dismissing an opposition challenge that had delayed his inauguration, which will now be held on Sunday.

Before the vote, Mnangagwa had said a credible election could pull Zimbabwe out of its diplomatic isolation under former president Robert Mugabe, ending international sanctions and prompting an economic recovery.

Instead the vote left the nation polarized, with Nelson Chamisa, who leads the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), mounting the legal challenge and violence flaring on the streets of Harare.

In a unanimous ruling from the nine judges of the country's top court, Chief Justice Luke Malaba said Chamisa had failed to prove allegations of fraud during the presidential vote.

"Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is duly declared the winner of the presidential elections," Malaba said in the ruling.

Chamisa had earlier said he reserved the right to take alternative actions, including peaceful protests, if he lost the legal case.

On Friday, he did not spell out his next step, but told his supporters on Twitter he would consult them on the "course of action to be taken to rescue our beautiful Zimbabwe from the jaws of poverty, corruption & dishonesty."

Douglas Mwonzora, MDC secretary-general, told reporters that "this is the end of the road" for his party's legal challenges. "But we have other avenues.… We can demonstrate," he added.

In a statement issued hours after the decision, the MDC said that in the coming days, the opposition will announce a "vigorous program of action in response to this electoral theft of the century."

"While we respect the court, we don't accept its manifestly unjust decision," the statement said.

"Specifically, we are going to show Mr. Mnangagwa and the world that the peaceful masses have rejected him," it read. "They will never accept him. Our constitution is our shield."

Calls for peace

The election — in which Mnangagwa and Chamisa were the main contenders — was touted as a crucial step toward shedding Zimbabwe's pariah reputation and securing international funding to revive an economy suffering chronic shortages of investment and cash, as well as high unemployment.

An army crackdown in response to post-election violence by opposition supporters left six people dead, recalling the heavy-handed security tactics that marked the 37-year rule of Mugabe, who was removed in a coup last November.

Mnangagwa now faces the challenge of persuading the international community that the army crackdown and lapses in the election process will not derail his promise of reforms to overcome corruption and mismanagement under Mugabe.

The president called for peace on his Twitter feed Friday, after the ruling was delivered.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told Reuters that Mnangagwa would be inaugurated on Sunday.

At ZANU-PF's offices, hundreds of supporters in the party's green and yellow colours followed Malaba's judgment on television, erupting into song and dance after their candidate was confirmed as president.

"He won the battle," a supporter told Reuters, adding that while Mnangagwa's enemies were trying their best, "they 

Mnangagwa called for calm after Zimbabwe's constitutional court confirmed his July 30 victory on Friday. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, outside the MDC party's office, one member questioned the judges' decision. "It was not fair. They were favouring one side — ZANU-PF. The MDC had enough evidence but it was not considered," he said.

Police blocked roads around the court in central Harare. Vehicles carrying water cannons reappeared on streets near the courthouse while riot police patrolled the city centre.

A Reuters witness said Harare was calm immediately after the ruling, with people going about their usual business.

In a statement, the European Union urged all parties to "call for calm and restraint" after the court ruling.

"It is important that the new government engages all stakeholders in substantive discussions on the necessary reforms, including on further electoral reforms," the EU said.

With files from The Associated Press