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Legal challenge necessary for Zimbabwe election legitimacy, Chamisa adviser says

With President Emmerson Mnangagwa claiming election victory in Zimbabwe, opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa says it’s a day of “mourning over democracy” and that he does not accept the outcome. Alex Magaisa, adviser to Chamisa, tells Judy Woodruff that the ballot "counting process has not gone very well," citing delays and problems with transparency.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Alex Magaisa advised the presidential campaign of Nelson Chamisa. He previously was chief of staff to the former Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

    Alex Magaisa, thank you very much for being here.

    What's your reaction to what's happened in your country?

  • Alex Magaisa:

    Well, it's incredibly sad that events have come to this situation.

    We have seen people being killed. We are also seeing an escalation of violence and the use of excessive force by the state. We would hope that the election would go peacefully, as it had, and that it would be concluded in peace.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Did your candidate, Mr. Chamisa, go into this process thinking that this election was going to be carried out in a fair and democratic manner?

  • Alex Magaisa:

    He understood that the system was rigged. He understood that there was institutional bias on the part of the election referee.

    But it was important to contest, because he understood that boycotting elections doesn't really work, and it was important to show up the system, and it has been shown up.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And in what way? You say that it ended up that this wasn't a fair election. In what way was it not? Because there were international observers there who said, yes, there were some problems, but, overall, I think the consensus was they found it fair.

  • Alex Magaisa:

    Well, I think that they found the election was peaceful, at least up until Election Day, but they have not really pronounced on the freeness and fairness of that election or the credibility of it.

    Indeed, what they said on Tuesday was that they were waiting for the conclusion of the counting process. And the counting process has not gone very well. There have been delays. There has been a lot of problems in terms of transparency and fairness.

    But there were many issues. We're looking in the process here. The voters roll was not released on time. The printing of the ballot papers, design of ballot papers, and so many issues that demonstrated that the referee was not fair.

    Mr. Chamisa would have withdrawn from that election, but he decided that it's important to give the people of Zimbabwe an opportunity to choose their next leader. And he has done incredibly well. There is no opposition leader who has ever garnered two million votes in an election. And he has done that.

    And we believe that he did enough to win the presidency. And that's what the people believe.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What gives you that confidence? Do you — how do you know that — how does he know that he had enough votes to win?

  • Alex Magaisa:

    They have information that they have been collecting during the electoral process.

    They have been comparing the figures that they have on the ground and the figures that have been given by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. Some of the figures are not tallying up. Some of the figures are not adding up.

    And what he's trying to do is to pursue all the legal and constitutional mechanisms that are available using peaceful means, and there is no room for violence in this process.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you believe that the — that Mr. Mnangagwa, that his new administration — they have declared victory. Are they going to allow this challenge to go forward?

  • Alex Magaisa:

    Well, they don't have a choice. It has to be done. Of course, there are challenges with the judicial process.

    It may be that the judiciary will not give it the fair hearing that we hope it would. There have been other cases in the past where there have been challenges. But we hope that there will be enough evidence that will convince them — or at least they will be able to look at the evidence fairly and be able to conclude the matter.

    What Zimbabwe needs is a conclusion of this process that gives legitimacy to whoever governs it up until now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you say, Mr. Magaisa, to those who look at the opposition candidates who ran and say what they did was, they divided the anti-Mnangagwa vote, in other words, that the opposition was split, and that weakened their performance in the election?

  • Alex Magaisa:

    Yes, it's an argument that has been put forward.

    But I think it's an argument that lacks nuance. The Zimbabwean elections are harmonized, in that there are three elections, the council, the parliamentary, and the presidential.

    Yes, for the presidential election, you can see that there were only two candidates who were running. It was Mr. Mnangagwa and Mr. Chamisa. And, indeed, there are areas where Mr. Mnangagwa's party won in the parliamentary election, but Mr. Chamisa was able to get the popular vote. So there was a split ticket.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So you're saying it wasn't really divided, the opposition?

  • Alex Magaisa:

    Not for the presidential election. It would have been divided for the parliamentary candidates. That's understandable.

    And that's regrettable. But, for the presidential election, that issue doesn't arise.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How at this point does Mr. Chamisa go about his challenge? What is he going to do?

  • Alex Magaisa:

    He has to approach the Constitutional Court. The constitution of Zimbabwe provides for a mechanism within the next seven days.

    He has to launch his petition through the Constitutional Court, which will then hear the matter and make a decision on the issue. That is one mechanism that he has available to him.

    But, as I say, the constitution guarantees a number of fundamental freedoms and rights that can be exercised in order to ensure that the will of the people is accepted.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What are the consequences for Zimbabwe if Mr. Mnangagwa is declared the victor and this challenge from Mr. Chamisa doesn't bear out, doesn't bear fruit?

  • Alex Magaisa:

    Well, we would hope that he would show carry out a mandate that would assist Zimbabwe to have a brighter future.

    But we have serious challenges, because Mr. Mnangagwa and a lot of people around him are part of the old administration. And the challenge that Zimbabwe needs right now…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Mugabe administration?

  • Alex Magaisa:

    That is right. Exactly.

    And so many people, especially on the opposition side, wonder whether there is going to be any difference at all. And the signs that we have seen in the last two days, with the military being deployed in these urban areas, and we also hear in the rural areas, using excessive force, this is what we used to see during the era of Mr. Mugabe.

    And it's almost like deja vu for a lot of people. And that's really scary.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Excuse me.

    But Mr. Mnangagwa is saying that they are going to investigate this — the violence that took place.

  • Alex Magaisa:

    He has spoken very well, and he has spoken very well in the past. Sometimes, the words do not match the actions.

    And what is important is that what he is saying, it has to be fulfilled, it has to be complemented by actual actions. And we hope that it will be done.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Will this be decided purely by internal decision-making inside Zimbabwe? Are there any outside forces, whether on the continent of Africa or anywhere else that, do you believe, can have a good effect on the government of Mr. Mnangagwa to persuade them — to make sure that this procession goes fairly from now on?

  • Alex Magaisa:

    Oh, absolutely.

    I think that Zimbabwe has been a troublesome child for Southern Africa, Southern African region for the past 20 years. And for a time, we were actually under the curatorship of the Southern African Development Community, which is a regional organization.

    I think that the international community has an important role to play to influence Zimbabwe to go on a proper and smoother path. And we hope that will happen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Alex Magaisa, who advised the campaign of Nelson Chamisa, we thank you very much.

  • Alex Magaisa:

    Thank you for having me.

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