Zimbabwe on tenterhooks as opposition Chamisa prepares ‘inauguration’

Zimbabwe’s main opposition, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), plans to inaugurate its leader Nelson Chamisa as the ‘people’s president’ with the government threatening a “merciless” response.

According to online publication NewZimbabwe.com, Chamisa announced his intention to be inaugurated during an address to thousands of his party’s supporters at Huruyadzo Shopping Centre in Chitungwiza on Saturday. He further announced that he would appoint an alternative Cabinet.

“The leadership is saying that the person who was voted for by the people should be inaugurated by the people.

“This is not a joke. Yes, you can have the military might, but no military might can defeat the popular vote. You can have false institutions but no false institution can ever replace a popular will,” Chamisa said. 

MDC spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda said Chamisa “will be recognised as the legitimate president of Zimbabwe by his party and the people of Zimbabwe following resolutions of the national council.”

At least six people were killed and scores injured by the military after Chamisa, without waiting for official results, pronounced himself the winner of the presidential election at the end of July.

Sibanda said Chamisa had been denied victory by “cheating and chicanery” and that the ceremony would be held on Saturday, during the party’s 19th anniversary celebrations.

“Resolutions will be passed to recognise his victory and state it publicly,” he said.

Chamisa narrowly lost to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the country’s first election since the ousting of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe last year.

Mnangagwa, of the ruling ZANU-PF party, won the election with 50.8% of the vote – just enough to meet the 50% threshold needed to avoid a run-off against Chamisa, who scored 44.3%.

The MDC claimed that the results of the July 30 elections were rigged but its legal bid to have the result overturned due to alleged electoral fraud and irregularities was rejected by the Constitutional Court.

Despite the court ruling, Chamisa remains steadfast in his belief that he won the presidential election and that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission manipulated the outcome in favour of Mnangagwa.

During the address, Chamisa rejected reports of a possible deal with the government that would likely see him become leader of the opposition in Parliament.

“I do not care about positions. This dog is not barking because it wants a bone. I am barking because my masters – you the people – have asked me to bark and bite.”

Newly-appointed deputy minister of information, publicity and broadcasting services, Energy Mutodi, posted a warning on Twitter on Monday, saying government is “following with keen interest the inflammatory statements being passed by Nelson Chamisa” and that “any attempt to delegitimize government will not be tolerated and those bent on causing anarchy will be dealt with mercilessly.”

Chamisa will not be the first opposition leader on the continent this year to be sworn in as the “people’s president”.

The leader of Kenya’s opposition party Raila Odinga had himself inaugurated as an alternative president in January, in a move seen as a final push to challenge President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election.

READ MORE: Kenya opposition to swear-in leader as ‘president’

Odinga has run for president four times – in 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017 – and lost in all.

Odinga had challenged the result of the original August 2017 vote by winning an unprecedented annulment, but then boycotted the court-ordered re-run in October which handed victory to Kenyatta.

READ MORE: Kenya inaugurates another crisis

Odinga’s coalition, the National Super Alliance, also claimed fraud during the elections so it decided to stage the ceremony in the capital Nairobi as a way to challenge Kenyatta’s legitimacy by seeking to establish parallel government structures.

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