South Africa

Court puts Zimbabwe opposition back on the ballot in Bulawayo

Nelson Chamisa

A Zimbabwean court on Thursday put 15 would-be opposition lawmakers back on the ballot ahead of a crunch national vote, quashing an earlier, much-criticised verdict.

The southern African country’s leading opposition party said it was “relieved” at the Supreme Court ruling allowing for its candidates to contest the elections in Bulawayo — Zimbabwe’s second largest city.

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“It would have been a coup on the will of the people if they were to be removed,” said Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) party spokeswoman Fadzayi Mahere.

“We don’t celebrate because they should never have been removed in the first place…What we do say is we are relieved.”

Zimbabwe heads to the polls on August 23 to elect the president and legislature in what analysts expect to be a tense affair amid a crackdown on the opposition and rigging fears.

The CCC had filed 12 parliamentary candidates in Bulawayo, an opposition stronghold, but was left with none last week after a court ruled it had submitted the paperwork late.

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Three other aspiring lawmakers for smaller opposition parties were also disqualified.

Zimbabwe’s electoral commission

The verdict went against the opinion of Zimbabwe’s electoral commission and virtually handed the southwestern city to the ruling ZANU-PF party, leaving its parliamentary hopefuls to run largely uncontested.

But the Supreme Court set it aside in a “unanimous decision”. The reasons for it would be made public at a later stage, it said.

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Critics have long accused ZANU-PF, which has been in power since independence in 1980, of using the courts to target opposition politicians and silence dissent.

‘Impartial judiciary’

Government spokesperson Nick Mangwana seized on the latest ruling to boast about the country’s “very professional and impartial judiciary.”

“We unfortunately also have those who believe they should never lose a case,” Mangwana wrote on Twitter, which is being rebranded as X.

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“Same for elections. We have those who always scream, ‘rigged’ when they lose. You can’t blame the referee every time you don’t win.”

A report by Human Rights Watch on Thursday said the elections will be held under a “seriously flawed electoral process” that does not meet global standards for freedom and fairness.

It cited the weaponisation of the courts against the opposition as one of many issues.