Mnangagwa says disputed Zimbabwe election ‘behind us’

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Zimbabwe President elect Emmerson Mnangagwa smiles in the garden of The State House in Harare on August 3, 2018, at the end of a press conference. Mnangagwa defended the landmark election in which he was declared victorious, despite claims from the opposition of vote-rigging. / AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday called for the country to move on from its disputed election, despite his victory being challenged in court over alleged fraud and his inauguration delayed.

The country’s first election since the fall of Robert Mugabe was mired by the army opening fire on protesters, allegations of vote-rigging and a crackdown on opposition activists.

Mnangagwa, who narrowly won the July 30 vote, took power last year when military generals ousted Mugabe after 37 years in office.

“It’s now time to put the election period behind us and embrace the future,” the president-elect said at a speech on the annual day honouring Zimbabwe’s independence heroes.

“The task facing us today is a great one,” he added.

“We should never be deterred by temporary setbacks and regrettable events we have encountered.”

Mnangagwa, a former long-term ally of Mugabe, repeated his accusation that the opposition MDC party was responsible for violence at an anti-fraud protest when soldiers opened fire killing six people.

The MDC party on Friday lodged a Consitutional Court appeal against the election result, forcing Mnangagwa’s inauguration, which had been due on Sunday, to be postponed.

The court must make its ruling within 14 days, though analysts say the judicial system is tilted in favour of Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF party, which has held power since independence from British colonial rule in 1980.

Mnangagwa, 75, had vowed to hold a credible and peaceful election to re-launch the country and revive its shattered economy after the Mugabe era.

He narrowly won the presidential race with 50.8 percent of the vote — just enough to avoid a run-off against the MDC’s Nelson Chamisa, who scored 44.3 percent.