HARARE— Zimbabwe’s Electoral Court has begun hearing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s challenge of the re-election of President Robert Mugabe in the July 31 polls.
Mugabe's swearing in has been put on hold and investors have been cautious since the re-election of the 89-year-old leader because of his policy of seizing foreign owned firms.
Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change accuse the Zimbabwe Election Commission of rigging the election for Mugabe's Zanu PF party. On Wednesday, they were at the Electoral Court to force the commission to produce all election materials.
Lewis Uriri, the lawyer for Tsvangirai, told reporters that the court reserved judgment.
“Clearly time is of essence here," he said. "We need access to those materials to demonstrate beyond doubt that the election was not properly conducted, to demonstrate the will of the people was not reflected in that election. There must be a reason why they do not want to produce those materials. That reason is that there are definitely, definitely, definitely, ghosts in those sealed materials that they do not want us access.”
The election commission declared that Mugabe defeated Tsvangirai, 61 to 34 percent in the July 31 polls, which Tsvangirai is challenging. He wants the election commission to produce all election material before the Constitutional Court hears the challenge of Mugabe’s re-election on Saturday.
Since his re-election, Zimbabwe’s stock market has been on a downward fall.
Christopher Mugaga, an economist who heads Econometer Global Capital in Harare, says the stock market will only recover if Mugabe comes clear on the “indigenization” policy that was part of his election campaign. Indigenization refers to Zimbabwe’s policy of seizing the majority stake of foreign owed companies.
“The indigenization policy itself does not have a fund which is in existence," Mugaga pointed out. "There has been speculation on how they are going to fund or finance the 51 percent stake the government is taking from foreign companies. There is need for Mugabe to see to it that his indigenization policy does not appear as a vendetta or a slogan. It has to be a policy which should accommodate foreign interests, as you know most capital intensive industries will not accept in any way such a policy.”
This week, Mugabe told delegates honoring the country’s heroes of independence that the “indigenization” policy has not affected this southern African country as critics say.
“Zimbabwe's economy remains one of the most stable economies in the region for now," said Mugabe. "It is government's expectation that indigenous mining experts will take advantage of these opportunities to pursue various empowerment enterprises for our people in line with our indigenization and empowerment policy. Ladies and Gentlemen, comrades and friends, the empowerment agenda remains central to government's priorities," he said.
The election manifesto of Mugabe’s Zanu PF party was “Taking Back The Economy: Indigenize, Empower, Develop and Create Employment.’’ So far, investors seem to be at odds with that, as they are selling off their shares.
Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court has until August 23 to decide the election dispute. A nullification would mean new polls would be called in 60 days. If the case is dismissed, Mugabe will be sworn in within 48 hours.
Zimbabwe’s election is set to dominate a meeting of Southern African leaders in Malawi.
In 2008, African leaders refused to recognize an election in which Mugabe claimed victory over Tsvangirai. They forced the two to form a fragile power-sharing government that ended with the July 31 elections.
The polls were Tsvangirai’s third attempt to defeat Mugabe, Zimbabwe's ruler since 1980.