HARARE, August 27 – Thousands of Zimbabweans and a sizeable number of foreign dignitaries gathered at Zimbabwe’s 64,000-seat National Sports Stadium in Harare on Sunday to witness the inauguration of recently elected President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Besides ordinary Zimbabweans and members of various apostolic sects, former president Robert Mugabe’s daughter Bona and her husband Simba Chikore attended and delivered a message of congratulations to Mnangagwa.
“I am away in Singapore and not feeling quite well, but I have sent my daughter to represent me. Hearty congratulations,” Mugabe said in a message read out by Mnangagwa just before he delivered his acceptance speech.
Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe after a military-backed coup last November, has been desperate for a Mugabe endorsement and the congratulatory message appeared to come as a relief.
Before the July 30 elections, Mugabe told the world that his successor had tormented him as he had grabbed power unconstitutionally, but hoped the elections would “return Zimbabwe to constitutionality”.
Mnangagwa walked into the stadium to the beat of Zimbabwe’s musician of the moment, Jah Prayzah’s Kutonga Kwaro, literally translated to mean leadership acumen.
The crowd and guests in the VVIP and VIP tents rose in unison to dance to the song, as Mnangagwa swaggered in to take his seat. His inauguration, the second in nine months, was witnessed by African leaders, including African Union (AU) chairman and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila, Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu, and Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
The African leaders sat in the front row and intermittently chatted. Kagame, speaking on behalf of the AU, congratulated Mnangagwa and the people of Zimbabwe. The elections had been necessary for Zimbabwe to rebuild itself, he said.
Botswana was represented by former president Festus Mogae, who has commercial interests in Zimbabwe’s retail sector. Former Mozambican and Tanzanian presidents Joaquim Chissano and Jakaya Kikwete also attended the inauguration.
Mnangagwa won the tightly contested July 30 election and was declared elected by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission on August 3. His victory, by a small margin of 50.6 percent of the vote against his MDC Alliance opponent Nelson Chamisa’s 44.4 percent, was challenged by the latter in the Constitutional Court. The court ruled on the matter on Friday.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba announced the Constitutional Court’s unanimous decision: “It is not for the court to decide elections, it is the people. It is a duty of the courts to strive in public interest to sustain that which the people have expressed their will in. Therefore Chamisa’s application ought to be dismissed. In the result, the following order is made. The application is dismissed with costs.”
Chamisa, who has rejected the court judgment, snubbed the event although he was said to have been invited. His spokesperson, Nkululeko Sibanda, when asked why the opposition leader had spurned the invite, quipped, “How can goat thieves invite the owner to a dinner to share the stolen property”.
Chamisa has now approached the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights to challenge the court ruling. He accused the court of lacking impartiality. (ANA)