Army patrols ‘ghost city’ of Harare after Zimbabwe’s first election without Mugabe was marred by bloody violence – as President Mnangagwa tells opposition to ‘lose graciously’

  • Troops cleared the centre of the capital as police said the death toll was up to six
  • President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared victory in first post-Mugabe poll
  • But opposition leader Nelson Chamisa says the election had been fraudulent  

Zimbabwe’s armed forces were patrolling the ‘ghost city’ of Harare on Thursday as the country awaited results of a presidential election which has been marred by protests and bloodshed.

Police said the death toll had risen to six after people were shot dead during demonstrations against alleged electoral fraud on Wednesday, leading troops to clear the centre of the capital today. 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared victory in the disputed poll, the country’s first since the downfall of Robert Mugabe last year, and accused the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)  of inciting the unrest. 

But his rival Nelson Chamisa also claimed he had won the election and said the result was being faked, saying police have raided opposition headquarters in the capital and seized computers, with the results set to be announced later this evening.  

Zimbabwean troops are pictured in the deserted capital of Harare amid the disputed election 

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba told a press conference on Thursday that the toll had risen from three to six after further protesters succumbed to their injuries. 

Mnangagwa said on Twitter that he wanted an independent investigation into the killings, and that he sought to settle differences ‘peacefully’. His party has said the opposition should ‘lose gracefully’. 

Police claimed that around 4,000 opposition supporters were ‘besieging’ the city centre carrying iron bars and stones while the opposition said they were not responsible for the demonstrations.

The vote on Monday was meant to mark a new chapter after the end of the Mugabe era. 

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Mnangagwa had promised a free and fair vote after the military ushered him to power with a credible vote meant to end Zimbabwe’s international isolation and attract foreign investment to revive the shattered economy. 

But anger flared on Wednesday over alleged vote-rigging, prompting troops to use live rounds on protesters.

On Thursday, soldiers guarded the headquarters of ZANU-PF, while armoured personnel carriers, water cannon trucks and police anti-riot vans took position outside MDC headquarters. 

The presidential race has pitted 75-year-old Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former ally in the ruling ZANU-PF party, against the MDC’s leader, Nelson Chamisa, 35 years his junior.  

Members of the Zimbabwean armed forces pictured in Harare following the protests 

An Zimbabwean army truck is seen as the country waits for the results of the election 

Soldiers brandishing assault rifles and police shouted at pedestrians and traders to leave central Harare, AFP journalists witnessed.  

In a late-night press conference on Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu warned further protests would not be tolerated.

‘The opposition… are testing our resolve and I think they are making a big mistake,’ he said.

Chamisa ratcheted up pressure, saying he had won the presidential vote and that the result was being faked.

‘What they have been trying to do of late is to play around… that is rigging, that is manipulation, trying to bastardise the result, and that we will not allow,’ he told reporters.

In official results from the parliamentary election, also held on Monday, ZANU-PF won easily – suggesting Mnangagwa would be on course to retain the presidency. 

Of 210 parliamentary seats, 207 have been counted with ZANU-PF winning 144 and the MDC Alliance just 61. 

Opposition supporters tear down a Zanu-PF banner supporting President Mnangagwa 

Opposition supporters hold up a placard in support of their candidate Nelson Chamisa 

The MDC said the army had opened fire on Wednesday ‘for no apparent reason,’ killing unarmed civilians.

‘It’s disappointing – the government’s reaction only made things worse. It was heavy-handed,’ trader Timie Manuwere, 37, told AFP.

‘But I didn’t expect things to really change much with the elections. It was highly unlikely these guys would just give up power after eight months.’

Election observers from the Commonwealth issued a statement Thursday to ‘denounce the excessive use of force against unarmed civilians’ while former colonial power Britain appealed for Zimbabwe to remove the army from the streets.

Before the violence, European Union observers declared they found an ‘un-level playing field and lack of trust’ in the election process. Under Mugabe elections were often marred by fraud and deadly violence. 

Opposition MDC party supporters protest in the streets of Harare during clashes with police

ZEC chairwoman Priscilla Chigumba, a high court judge, has flatly rejected allegations of bias and rigging.

Mugabe, 94, voted in Harare on Monday alongside his wife Grace after he stunned observers by calling for voters to reject ZANU-PF, his former party.

The campaign and polling day were lauded as relatively peaceful and open.

Mnangagwa was the clear election front-runner, benefitting from tacit military support and state resources. But Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor, sought to tap into the youth and urban vote.

Mnangagwa was allegedly involved in violence and intimidation during the 2008 elections when then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off after attacks claimed the lives of at least 200 of his supporters.

If no presidential candidate wins at least 50 percent of the ballots cast in the first round, a run-off is scheduled for September 8. 

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