Clashes erupt in Harare as opposition protesters challenge vote results

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President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday called for calm as police fired live rounds, water cannon and teargas in Harare at crowds protesting alleged fraud in Zimbabwe’s elections. At least three people were killed in the unrest, police said.

© Luis Tato, AFP | Zimbabwean anti-riot police close the gate of Rainbow Towers, where election results were announced, as supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) protest Harare on August 1.

“At this crucial time, I call on everyone to desist from provocative declarations and statements,” Mnangagwa said on Twitter. “Now is the time for responsibility and above all, peace.”

Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi also appealed for calm and said the army was deployed on the streets to restore “peace and tranquility”.

“The presence of the army is not to intimidate people but to ensure that law and order is maintained. They are there to assist the police,” Ziyambi said in an interview broadcast on eNCA television. “They are there as a people’s army to ensure that peace and security prevails.”

Zimbabwe police on Wednesday fired live rounds, water cannon and teargas at opposition supporters in Harare as tensions erupted over alleged fraud in the election.

Officers had been facing off through a locked gate against crowds who brandished opposition party banners and chanted slogans against the ruling ZANU-PF party. Protesters burned cars and threw rocks as helicopters hovered above.

“You said you were better than Mugabe – you are the picture of Mugabe,” shouted one young male protester wearing a white T-shirt. “We need security for the people.”

AYESHA ISMAIL REPORTS FROM HARARE

European Union election observers had earlier criticised the elections, the first since long-time ruler Robert Mugabe stepped down in November, for being held on an “un-level playing field”.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has accused President Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF party and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission of using underhand tactics to steal the election from them.

An angry crowd of mostly young men, some of whom covered their faces, whistled and chanted “Chamisa, Chamisa” in downtown Harare.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission showed Mnangagwa‘s ZANU-PF cruising to a big majority after picking up 109 seats against 41 for the opposition MDC. Another 58 seats are yet to be declared.

The MDC won in most urban centres, where it enjoys majority support. The party accused the election commission on Tuesday of deliberately delaying results of this week’s vote to favour the ruling party, reporting irregularities in the first poll since the removal of Robert Mugabe in a bloodless November coup.

Mnangagwa said the violence was meant to disrupt the election and blamed the MDC leadership.

“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, according to ZBC.

In a late-night press conference, Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu warned that the government “will not tolerate any of the actions that were witnessed today.

“The opposition… have perhaps interpreted our understanding to be weak, and I think they are testing our resolve and I think they are making a big mistake,” he said.

Chamisa’s spokesman, Nkululeko Sibanda, told reporters the army’s reaction was unjustified.

“Today we saw the deployment of military tanks and firing of live ammunition on civilians for no apparent reason.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Zimbabwe’s political leaders and people to exercise restraint and reject any form of violence.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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