Three people die in post-election violence as army moves in

A soldier fires a gun to disperse opposition protesters in Harare on August 1, 2018

THREE people died in Harare on Wednesday as post-election violence erupted in the capital, which escalated with the intervention of the military.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police would like to confirm the unfortunate death of three people during the riots which occured in Harare’s central business district,” police spokesperson Charity Charamba said in an address on state television.

Tensions have risen following the election, in stark contrast to a pre-election period lauded by many as one of the most peaceful in decades, with hundreds of opposition supporters taking to the streets on Wednesday afternoon.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF secured a two-thirds parliamentary majority in results announced over Tuesday and Wednesday, but his main rival, Nelson Chamisa, has declared himself victor in the presidential contest.

The painstaking announcement of the official presidential results, expected to show a Mnangagwa win in line with his party’s parliamentary superiority, has stoked tensions, as have claims of victory by the opposition.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has up to Saturday to announce the results of the presidential election, in terms of the country’s law.

On Tuesday, Chamisa’s co-principal in the MDC Alliance, Tendai Biti, declared the 40-year old candidate winner of the presidential poll. Biti also claimed there was a plot to assassinate him and Chamisa.

The opposition alliance, which has not officially commented on the parliamentary results, claims to have figures confirming Chamisa’s win despite the MDC Alliance’s disastrous showing in the National Assembly elections.

Soldiers beat up a protester outside the MDC headquarters

Ahead of the election, MDC Alliance officials claimed to have enlisted over 40,000 polling agents to man the nearly 11,000 polling stations across the country. It has emerged from party insiders, however, that the MDC Alliance failed to tabulate its own voting data from the polling stations.

As a result, the MDC Alliance’s victory claims have no figures to back them.

Reacting to the eruption of violence, Mnangagwa made a press statement on Wednesday evening, in which he said government held the MDC Alliance leadership responsible “for any loss of life, injury or damage to property that arise from these acts of political violence which they have aided and abetted.”

Biti and MDC youth leader Happymore Chidziva are being sought by police in connection with the opposition protests, the ZRP spokesperson said.

The shock military intervention and the loss of life reeled back some progress the Mnangagwa administration has made to convince a sceptical world that it was committed to breaking with a past where protests were brutally suppressed.

Charamba said the police’s decision to call on the army was lawful.

“The Commissioner General of police has invoked the provisions of section 37 of the Public Order and Security Act and approached the Minister of Home Affairs to request the assistance of the defence forces for the suppression of the commotion and disturbances in Harare Central,” she said, adding that the police needed reinforcements as they were stretched, having deployed personnel across the country on election duty.

“The level of lawlessness in Harare has actually led to this decision.”

However, Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda described the security forces’ reaction as heavy-handed and reminiscent of the Gukurahundi and 2008 election-related atrocities.