ZIMBABWE’S President Emmerson Mnangagwa is in dialogue with his main rival Nelson Chamisa to ease tensions and has called for an independent investigation into deadly disturbances which claimed three lives as security forces cracked down on violent post-election protests in Harare on Wednesday.
Soldiers descended on the city late yesterday, firing shots as they used deadly force to disperse hundreds of opposition supporters protesting against alleged electoral theft.
Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF has secured 145 seats out of the 210 available, giving the ruling party a two-thirds parliamentary majority. Presidential election results expected to be announced today are projected to show a Mnangagwa win, although the main opposition MDC Alliance has claimed victory for Chamisa.
In the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s bloody clashes, Mnangagwa accused the opposition of inciting violence.
But in a series of tweets on Thursday, Mnangagwa struck a conciliatory tone.
“The most important thing for us now is to move beyond yesterday’s tragic events, and to move forward, together,” Mnangagwa said.
“I am therefore calling for an independent investigation into what occurred in Harare yesterday. We believe in transparency and accountability, and those responsible should be identified and brought to justice.”
He added that he was in communication with Chamisa, but did not give any further details.
“We have been in communication with Nelson Chamisa to discuss how to immediately defuse the situation, and we must maintain this dialogue in order to protect the peace we hold dear,” Mnangagwa added.
“Together, we must lead by example and show all Zimbabweans that peace is paramount. It is also more important than ever that we are united, and commit to settling our differences peacefully and respectfully, and within the confines of the law. This land is home to all of us, and we will sink or swim together.”
Police spokesperson Charity Charamba yesterday announced that the force had sought the army’s help to quell the opposition protests because the ZRP’s personnel resources were stretched after about 71,000 officers were deployed across the country on election duty.
On Thursday morning, the Commonwealth observer mission led by former Ghanaian president John Mahama slammed the government for excessive use of force and the opposition for the outbreak of violence.
“We categorically denounce the excessive use of force against unarmed civilians and wish to urge all parties to exercise restraint,” Mahama said.
He said the progress made by Zimbabwe in the post-Mugabe period, which saw a peaceful election campaign, could be undermined if political parties and their supporters do not remain peaceful and respect the rule of law.
“The electoral process is yet to be concluded. The greatest test of leadership is called for now. All parties must exercise patience and restraint while we await the announcement of full results. We urge the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to expedite the announcement of all election results, without further delay. Grievances must be pursued through due process, with the use of all available conflict resolution mechanisms.”
The United Nations has also called for restraint.
“We are concerned about reports of incidents of violence in some parts of Zimbabwe,” said UN spokesman Farhan Haq late on Wednesday.
“We call on the political leaders and the population as a whole to exercise restraint and reject any form of violence while awaiting resolution of the disputes and announcement of the election results.”