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Zimbabwe: Deadly clashes over 'manipulation'

August 1, 2018

Deaths were reported in Zimbabwe after soldiers opened fire at protesters in the capital. President Emmerson Mnangagwa urged "peace" as his rivals blamed the government of tampering with election results.

Soldiers beat a supporter of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party of Nelson Chamisa
Image: Reuters/M. Hutchings

Zimbabwe police fire tear gas to disperse opposition supporters

At least three people were killed in Harare on Wednesday as anti-government protesters clashed with security forces over the results of Monday's election. Reporters at the scene saw armored vehicles and helicopters deployed in Zimbabwe's capital, as protesters fled from soldiers firing live rounds.

By evening, police had declared a ban on public gatherings. The army was set to stay on the streets until "this situation is over," authorities said. DW reporter Melanie Cura Daball in Harare described the heavy police presence as akin to a "silent state of emergency."

Earlier, protesters had taken to the streets to urge the authorities to release the official presidential election results.

In response, police fired water cannon and tear gas at the protesters, urging them to disband. Protesters had blocked some roads, burned tires and chanted slogans against the ruling ZANU-PF party. Police then asked the military for help as they were "unable to cope," according to police spokeswoman Charity Charamba's statement to the ZBC state broadcaster, with soldiers eventually opening fire.

Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu said the opposition for using the presence of international observers to "grandstand" and cause "anarchy."

Clashes in Zimbabwe

Police acting like 'a headless chicken'

While the police confirmed that three people had been shot and killed so far, the death toll could rise.

Eddie Cross of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) told DW that deploying the military to disperse protesters was an "overreaction" by the interim government.

"Police are a headless chicken," Cross said, referring to the lack of leadership in the country's law enforcement body. "Young people may not take this lying down."

'Deeply concerned'

Incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa urged local leaders to promote peace as "this day that ended in tragedy comes to a close."

Earlier, he had accused the opposition of being "responsible for this disturbance of national peace," adding that the government "went out of its way" to try to ensure the elections were peaceful.

Read more: Zimbabwe voters await results of close presidential election 

The US Embassy said it was "deeply concerned" by the use of deadly force against protesters, calling on Zimbabwean forces to show restraint.

"We urge leaders of all parties to call for calm," the US Embassy said. "We further urge the Defense Forces of Zimbabwe to use restraint in dispersing protesters."

The UK, a former colonial power in Zimbabwe, also called for "calm and restraint."

Opposition claims victory

Zimbabwe's electoral commission have so far announced only partial parliamentary election results, saying ZANU-PF had received a majority of seats. However, opposition politicians accused the body of dragging its feet in declaring the results of the presidential vote.

Opposition presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa of the MDC claimed victory in a tweet, saying: "We have won the popular vote."

"You voted for total change in this past election! We have won this one together. No amount of results manipulation will alter your will."

Western election observers also called for the results of the presidential election to be released as soon as possible in order to reduce tensions.

The electoral commission has a five-day deadline to publish the results, starting with the vote on Monday. They said that "sometime tomorrow," on Thursday, they would tell the public when the results would be published.

Read more: Africa in 2018: The old generation remains at the helm

ZANU-PF party triumphs in Zimbabwe: Elmar Brok (EU election observer) speaks to DW

Vote marred by 'shortcomings'

Monday's parliamentary and presidential elections marked the first democratic process since former President Robert Mugabe stepped down in November 2017. The incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa took the office with the support of the nation's military.

Elmar Brok, chief observer for the EU's election monitor mission in Zimbabwe, told DW that the vote was marred by a "lot of shortcomings in favor of the ruling party," including through "financing, state media, intimidation, especially in the countryside."

Read more: Zimbabwe elections: Seven takeaways

But Brok noted that while the vote witnessed several irregularities, the electoral process exhibited significant progress compared with the 2013 and 2008 votes. He said that the EU monitoring mission would wait for results before further commenting on the situation.

ls,dj/rc (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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