Zimbabwe: Three dead in Harare amid election unrest

At least three people died on Wednesday after opposition protest against election results turned violent.

Zimbabwe teargas protests elections
Police fired volleys of tear gas at protesters outside Harare's vote tallying centre [Hamza Mohamed/Al Jazeera]

Harare, Zimbabwe – The government of Zimbabwe has warned protesters against violence after three people died in the capital Harare in post-election clashes as the country awaits the results from Monday’s presidential election.

Soldiers on Wednesday opened fire to disperse stone-throwing opposition supporters who accused the ruling ZANU-PF party of rigging the elections, witnesses told Al Jazeera. 

Opposition alliance Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) called the state’s response “disproportionate and unjustified”.

“Today we saw the deployment of military tanks and the firing of live ammunition on civilians for no apparent reason,” MDC spokesman Nkululeko Sibanda told reporters. 

“We condemn in the strongest sense the action that was taken today. There is no justification whatsoever for the brutality we experienced.” 

In a video statement, President Emmanuel Mnangagwa blamed the violence on supporters of the opposition and urged the MDC leadership to “remove its violent supporters from the street”. 

“We hold the opposition MDC Alliance and its whole leadership responsible for this disturbance of national peace, which was meant to disrupt the electoral process,” Mnangagwa said. 

“Equally, we hold the party and its leadership responsible for any loss of life, injury or damage of property that arise from these acts of political violence which they have aided and abetted.”

Protests started early on Wednesday after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) released results showing that ZANU-PF won most seats in parliament.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators, mostly young men, who lit fires and threw stones at the gates of the country’s vote tallying centre.

ZANU-PF, which has been in power since the southern African country gained independence in 1980, won 145 seats in the 210-seat parliament, the commission said.

MDC picked up 60 seats.

The National Patriotic Front (NPF) won one seat while an independent candidate also picked up a seat.

Results for three constituencies in Harare are yet to be released.

With these results, ZANU-PF has won a two-thirds majority that would allow it to change the Constitution at will.

Accusations of rigging

MDC and its supporters accused the ruling party of rigging the election. 

“The results are a gimmick to try and prepare Zimbabwe for a rigged election. If President Chamisa wins this election then the people of Zimbabwe will have their government,” Nkululeko Sibanda, an MDC alliance spokesman, told Al Jazeera.

Outside the opposition party headquarters, MDC supporters burned tyres and engaged police in running battles.

MDC supporters gathered outside of the vote tallying centre in Harare, Zimbabwe [Hamza Mohamed/Al Jazeera] 
MDC supporters gathered outside of the vote tallying centre in Harare, Zimbabwe [Hamza Mohamed/Al Jazeera] 

“I’m feeling angry at what ZEC and ZANU-PF are doing,” opposition supporter Tongai Chinodyatold Al Jazeera.

“They are conniving together to steal our votes. We are here to defend our vote. We are not going anywhere. The soldiers were shooting at us with live bullets. We are saying to ZANU-PF and ZEC enough is enough,” Chinodya said.

The ruling party denied any election rigging and said the vote was free and fair.

“There was no rigging and the opposition will come to realise this once emotions settle down. This was a free expression of the people’s will,” Nick Mangwana, ZANU-PF spokesman, told Al Jazeera. 

EU criticism

Meanwhile, observers from the European Union criticised the poll, the first vote since long-time leader Robert Mugabe stepped down in November 2017.

The EU mission said there was “un-level playing field” and “intimidation of voters”.

“These elections were seen as a critical test of Zimbabwe’s reform process,” Elmar Brok, the EU mission’s chief observer, said.

“In some senses, up to this point, the conduct of the polls has had a number of positive features, but in other senses, serious concerns remain.

“Now, we hope for a transparent results process,” Brok added.

The presidential vote results are yet to be announced. The electoral body has until Saturday to release the official results.

Twenty-three candidates, 19 men and 4 women, contested for the country’s top seat. All candidates were first-time contenders.

Follow Hamza Mohamed on Twitter: @Hamza_Africa

Source: Al Jazeera