Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has withdrawn a legal challenge to last month’s disputed presidential election which extended rival Robert Mugabe’s rule, his MDC party says, claiming the courts would not be fair.
This removed the last hurdle to 89-year-old leader Mugabe’s inauguration for a seventh term.
“The prime minister has withdrawn his election petition,” the Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said of Tsvangirai’s decision on Friday.
“The main reason is that this trial was going to be a mockery of justice,” he added. “We have tried to make use of the legal process and it has proved to be impossible.”
Tsvangirai said in an affidavit he had no choice but to withdraw after election organisers blocked key documents needed in the petition.
A lower court on Wednesday stalled his urgent application to force the documents’ release.
“The fact that I still do not have the material means that I cannot meaningfully prosecute my petition,” said Tsvangirai, who served as premier in a unity government with Mugabe following disputed polls in 2008.
“This sadly as far as I am concerned entails that the Zimbabwe situation is far from resolved,” he added, vowing to resolve the political crisis through “democratic means”.
Tsvangirai has rejected the results of the July 31 poll which handed him 34 per cent of the votes cast and declared Mugabe the winner with 61 per cent.
Tsvangirai claims the vote was rigged and has called for fresh elections.
The MDC queried the unusually high numbers of voters turned away at the polling stations, especially in urban areas that are considered opposition strongholds.
In Friday’s affidavit Tsvangirai further accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of being “consistently secretive”, making “a mockery of the neutral role that they must play in these matters.”
The Constitutional Court would have heard arguments on Saturday to decide whether a full trial was necessary.
The withdrawal of the election petition would now pave the way for Mugabe to be inaugurated for another five-year term, extending his 33-year rule.
But Mugabe’s lawyer Fred Gijima said the case would go ahead.
“An election petition is unwithdrawable,” he told AFP.
“They have to appear in court and present their case. They can’t just withdraw after having made such serious allegations.”
Representatives of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party were not available for comment.
MDC spokesman said the swearing-in would now go ahead, but that his MDC would not attend the ceremony.
Mugabe meanwhile blasted Western sanctions again on his arrival for a regional leaders’ summit in Malawi.
“You know what the West is like. They want to think for us, take decisions for us and even direct us as to which way we want to go,” he told journalists.
The 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) will publish its report on Zimbabwe’s polls during this weekend’s summit, according to South African President Jacob Zuma.
Election observers from the regional bloc have said the polls were free, but have not yet commented on the vote’s fairness.
“We were working for the elections to be peaceful, to be free and I think that this has happened,” said Zuma in the Malawian capital Lilongwe.
But the MDC is still taking the fight to the regional bloc which had mediated a power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai four years ago.