Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC party Friday called off plans to hold a mock inauguration to name its leader Nelson Chamisa as the country’s president after public gatherings were banned due to a cholera outbreak.
The MDC had planned the event to highlight its claims that the July 30 election was rigged and that Chamisa was the rightful president, rather than President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling ZANU-PF.
Chamisa narrowly lost to Emmerson Mnangagwa in Zimbabwe’s first election since the ousting of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe last year.
Chamisa’s legal bid to have the result overturned due to alleged electoral fraud and irregularities was rejected by the constitutional court on August 24.
“He will be recognised as the legitimate president of Zimbabwe by his party and the people of Zimbabwe following resolutions of the national council,” MDC spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda told AFP.
Sibanda said Chamisa had been denied victory by “cheating and chicanery” and that the ceremony would be held on Saturday when the party celebrates its 19th anniversary.
“Resolutions will be passed to recognise his victory and state it publicly,” he said.
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%.
Mnangagwa had pledged free and fair elections to restore relations with the west, but the vote was marred by the fatal shooting of at least six people when soldiers were deployed to quell opposition protests.
The MDC accused the government of using the cholera outbreak, which has claimed 25 lives, to stop the mock inauguration at the party’s 19th anniversary celebrations.
Authorities have banned public gatherings in Harare as a health measure.
“The Movement for Democratic Change has postponed its 19th anniversary celebrations,” party spokesman Jacob Mafume said in a statement.
“It is clear that the government is abusing the cholera epidemic for political purposes and puts into serious doubt that the ban of our commemoration event was out of genuine concern.”
The cholera outbreak, first detected in the township of Glen View outside Harare earlier this month, prompted the health ministry to declare an emergency in the city after at least 3,000 cases were reported.
The disease has since spread to other towns as well as rural areas across the country.
Cholera outbreaks have occurred regularly in Zimbabwe’s cities as authorities struggle to provide potable water and sanitation facilities.
Zimbabwe, which was ruled by Robert Mugabe from independence in 1980 until his ousting last year, suffered its worst cholera outbreak in 2008.
A total of 4,000 people died and at least 100,000 people fell ill.
Mnangagwa has pledged to tackle the current outbreak.
Zimbabwe’s largest university postponed its graduation ceremony on Friday.
A World Health Organization situation report revealed that first-line antibiotics were struggling to treat the disease, which has spread to five of the country’s 10 provinces.
While the Cholera outbreak that caused it is tragic, perhaps the cancellation of Chamisa’s mock inauguration is for the best.
His party’s attempts to “inaugurate” the leader have been met with threats from the government.
Gvt is following with keen interest the inflammatory statements being passed by Nelson Chamisa including his claim that he will be inaugurated on Saturday. Any attempt to delegitimize gvt will not be tolerated and those bent on causing anarchy will be dealt with mercilessly.
— Hon. Energy Mutodi (MP) (@energymutodi) September 10, 2018
“Any attempt to delegitimize government will not be tolerated and those bent on causing anarchy will be dealt with mercilessly,” wrote deputy minister of information and publicity Energy Mutodi on his official Twitter page.