Zimbabwe court paves way for Mugabe inauguration


HARARE - Zimbabwe’s top court has ruled that veteran Robert Mugabe won a fiercely contested presidential election fair and square, paving way for a stadium-style inauguration on Thursday.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said Tuesday the July 31 elections were “free, fair and credible.”  

 “Robert Gabriel Mugabe was duly elected president of the Republic of  Zimbabwe and is hereby declared the winner of the said election,” Chidyausiku  said.

 The declaration — despite widespread allegations of vote rigging — clears  the way for 89-year-old Mugabe to hold his high-profile inauguration for  another five-year term.

 “The constitutional court has finally issued its decision. In doing so it  has brought the whole electoral process to an end,” Mugabe’s lawyer Terrence  Hussein told journalists.

 “It has brought stability. It has brought certainty. We can now all move  on. I think we now know who our president is for the next five years.”   

Mugabe has ruled the country for 33 years since independence from Britain.

 Mugabe’s swearing-in had been delayed after Morgan Tsvangirai challenged  the election results in a petition to the constitutional court.

 The opposition leader later retracted the case, claiming he would not get a  fair shake from the court.

 Mugabe’s swearing in promises to be more high profile than in previous  years, a show of power perhaps designed to confer legitimacy amid persistent  allegations of electoral fraud.

 The ceremony’s organisers said around 40 heads of state have been invited  to the  event, to be held in a 60,000-seater sports stadium on the outskirts of  the capital.

 Thousands of Mugabe’s supporters are expected to troop in from across the  country.

  Zimbabwe’s electoral commission declared Mugabe the winner with 61 percent  of the ballot, against his main rival Tsvangirai’s 34 percent.

   The elections were to end a shaky power-sharing government formed by Mugabe  and Tsvangirai four years ago to avoid a tip into conflict following a bloody  presidential run-off election.

   Tsvangirai condemned the election as “a farce” and “a massive fraud” and  demanded a forensic audit of the election results.

   Among other complaints, Tsvangirai queried the unusually high number of  voters who were turned away from urban areas which are considered strongholds  of his party.

   He also complained that suspected rural supporters of his party were  ordered by Mugabe party youth to feign illiteracy and vote in the presence of  police and electoral officers.

   In a surprise U-turn Friday, Tsvangirai withdrew his petition saying he  would not get a fair hearing.

   He said the courts had frustrated his efforts for the release of election  materials to use as evidence.

   But the constitutional court went ahead and made a ruling on the case.

   Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said it had been  denied justice.

  “We have not been accorded justice,” party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora told  journalists. “We are in this situation because we could not have the materials  to prosecute our case.

 “We will continue to struggle for justice in this country to make sure the  rule of law is retained in our justice system.”  

  Mugabe was declared winner in a presidential run-off election in 2008 after  Tsvangirai pulled out of the race citing violence which left 200 of his  supporters dead and thousands displaced.

 Local observers have called the polls flawed and Western powers have raised  serious doubts over the vote, but regional organisations the African Union and  Southern African Development Community were less critical. --  AFP

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