FILE - Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses people during a Heroes' Day holiday event to commemorate the lives of those who died in the southern African country's 1970s war against white minority rule, in Harare, Aug. 13, 2018.
FILE - Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses people during a Heroes' Day holiday event to commemorate the lives of those who died in the southern African country's 1970s war against white minority rule, in Harare, Aug. 13, 2018.

JOHANNESBURG/HARARE - Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court has dismissed a challenge seeking to nullify the results of the country’s July 30 presidential election.

The ruling Friday clears the way for the inauguration of incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa within 48 hours, according to Zimbabwe's constitution.

Chief Justice Luke Malaba took nearly an hour to go through the details of what he said was a unanimous judgment, dismissing the opposition's claims of election rigging and declaring Mnangagwa the winner of the election.
 
"The application is dismissed with costs, in terms of Section 93, subsection 4, sub paragraph A of the Constitution, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is duly declared the winner of the presidential elections held on the 30 of July, 2018," he said as the other eight judges sat alongside him on the bench.
 
The initial, official results showed Mnangagwa winning a slim majority of the vote, with just over 50.8 percent. The nation's electoral commission has said his margin was actually 50.67 percent.

Opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa trailed with just over 44 percent.  Chamisa's legal team had argued the results were not accurate, and that he was the winner.

In a hearing Wednesday, Chamisa's lawyers presented what they said was clear evidence that the results had been falsified.

Nelson Chamisa, Zimbabwe's opposition leader, ta
FILE - Nelson Chamisa, Zimbabwe’s opposition leader and candidate in the country's July 30 presidential election, talks to reporters in Harare, Aug. 20, 2018.

Rigging seen before

Zimbabwe has a long history of allegedly rigged elections.  International election observers and human rights groups accused former president Robert Mugabe of using violence and fraud to win several polls, most notably the 2008 run-off vote after MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round.

Mnangagwa came to power in November 2017 after military pressure forced Mugabe to resign after 37 years in power.

Zimbabwean author and academic Ibbo Mandaza said he was disappointed by Friday's court ruling, and maintained that this year's election was, as the opposition claims, rigged.
 
"To be a party to, in my view, a fraud, is disgraceful," he told VOA. "Disgraceful. I feel sorry for myself, I feel sorry for Zimbabwe, I feel sorry for the road ahead. We are in a mess."

Opposition figures at the courthouse did not immediately say what they would do next. Officials told VOA they would meet in the coming week to explore all their options, including protests.

Six people were killed August 1 when security forces opened fire on demonstrators outside the electoral commission office in Harare.