Zimbabwean opposition parties and civil society formations want the Constitutional Court to find that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s takeover from long-time President Robert Mugabe was unconstitutional.

The applicants say their bid is to restore constitutional integrity, but the government insists the courts have already declared the matter lawful.

Zimbabweans celebrated when they saw the back of long-time President Robert Mugabe. The army was instrumental in the end of a 37-year rule.

However, the opposition Liberal Democrats, Revolutionary Freedom Fighters and some citizens say this does not mean that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ascent was constitutional.

“This man left the country because he had a plan. He said he’d be back in two weeks. He came back in an army helicopter, that is why the army was rewarded with positions. So, that is a coup,” says Liberal Democrats’ Dr Vusimusi Sibanda.

High Court Judge George Chiweshe ruled that the army’s action was lawful and constitutional. It ensured that non-elected individuals do not exercise executive functions.

However, the applicants disagree.

“Section 212 says the army must uphold the constitution. Upholding the constitution is making sure that they cannot deploy themselves but only the commander in chief can do so,” the application states.

The government is ready to challenge the application.

“It is abundantly clear that contrary to assertions that former President Mugabe was removed from power. He submitted to a motion of impeachment proceedings moved against him and tabled in Parliament, hence his resignation as president during the middle of the impeachment. It is, therefore, false that he was removed by the military,” says Zimbabwe Acting Minister of Information Simon Moyo.

The applicants also do not have confidence in Mnangagwa’s government to run the upcoming polls.

However, the government reiterates its commitment.

“As the president has said, the coming elections must be free and fair. Observers must feel welcome from all over the world to come and observe, but we don’t want observers to be scared because of some activities, which we are witnessing from some opposition parties, activities which will scare would-be observers and investors,” says Moyo.

Analysts believe the opposition is barking up the wrong tree.

“I think this is a good thing because if the constitution has been broken something has to be done, but my own view, however, is that their energies would be best spent campaigning to sell an alternative vision for Zimbabwe, alternative to Zanu PF,” says Political Analyst Professor Tinyiko Maluleke.

The US remains sceptical of the change in Zimbabwe, but the African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mamahat calls it a peaceful transition of power and the EU is already considering sending an observer mission to the upcoming elections.

The question is which will come first – the constitutional court hearing and its ruling, or the elections?