HARARE (Reuters) – President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday said Zimbabweans should now unite to rebuild the economy and put behind them the election period that saw six people being killed after the army stepped in to quell post-election protests this month.
In his first national address since being declared winner in a disputed presidential vote, Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had showed the world it could hold a free and peaceful vote but blamed the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for violence that followed.
“It is now time to put the election period behind us and embrace the future,” Mnangagwa said during Heroes Day commemorations in the capital Harare.
“We should never be deterred by temporary setbacks or regrettable events which we encounter in our cause to build an open, free and democratic, prosperous Zimbabwe.”
The July 30 election, the first since Robert Mugabe was forced to resign after a coup last November, was cast as a watershed vote that could pull a pariah state back into the international fold and spark an economic revival.
But the violence that erupted after Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-PF party won the national elections and the heavy-handed army response was another reminder that Zimbabwean society remains deeply divided even after Mugabe’s near four decades rule.
MDC leader Nelson Chamisa and Mnangagwa’s main rival who has challenged the election result at the Constitutional Court said in a message to mark Heroes Day that Zimbabwe was a broken and divided nation that needed healing and reconciliation.
The vote, he said, had been held in a “scandalous” way.
“We must resolutely do everything in our power under our constitution to say ‘No’ to fraud and repression either in our electoral politics or justice system,” Chamisa said.
ZANU-PF legal secretary Paul Mangwana said lawyers would respond to Chamisa’s case by Wednesday.
The Constitutional Court, whose decision is final, can uphold the result, declare a new winner, order a fresh election within 60 days or make any other ruling it deems fit.
The court must rule within 14 days of an election challenge being lodged. The days do not include weekends and public holidays according to the court rules.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia, Richard Balmforth)