Zimbabwe presidential rivals both signal election victory, result due soon

Geneva Stokes
August 2, 2018

Soldiers ordered shops and businesses to close in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, today hours before the release of presidential election results in which Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to triumph.

Three people were killed after soldiers moved into Harare on Wednesday, firing live rounds and beating protesters.

For its part, ZANU-PF said it was "eagerly awaiting the announcement of the results" and appealed to the opposition "to ensure that their supporters maintain a calmness which existed when people went to vote".

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's results showed Mnangagwa's Zanu-PF cruising to a big majority after picking up 109 seats against 41 for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The churches called for an audience with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)‚ and urged it to immediately release the presidential results to avoid further anxiety amid a restless nation.

The result of the presidential vote is not yet known.

Soldiers were on guard outside the headquarters of the ruling ZANU-PF party, while armored personnel carriers, water cannon trucks and police anti-riot vans drove through Harare sporadically pausing outside the MDC headquarters.

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said the three people killed were yet to be identified.

Zimbabweans desperately hope the peaceful vote, which took place Monday, will lift them out of economic and political stagnation after decades of Mugabe's rule, but the country is haunted by a history of electoral violence and manipulation that means trust is scarce.

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. The electoral commission had said it would announce a victor within five days of the vote, in accordance with Zimbabwean law. The opposition has raised fears about possible vote-rigging of the kind that marked past elections under former leader Robert Mugabe.

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Mr Mnangagwa has blamed the violence on the MDC Alliance and has now promised an independent investigation.

A wounded man takes shelter in a market stall in Harare as protests turned violent.

The party's officials earlier declared victory in the presidential poll despite ZEC not releasing the results.

The ruling party forced Mugabe to resign in November, when the military briefly seized control of the country, and replaced him with Mnangagwa, his former deputy and spy chief.

The Commonwealth election observer mission in the country has, meanwhile, condemned "the excessive use of force against unarmed civilians", calling on all parties to exercise restraint.

The military deployment was the first time that soldiers had appeared in the capital's streets since a military takeover led to the ouster of Mugabe in November.

Police have said they requested the military's help because they were "unable to cope".

European Union observers have listed several problems with the vote, including media bias, voter intimidation and mistrust in the electoral commission. "Because 29 years of oppressing the people of Zimbabwe, we are exhausted, we are saying we are exhausted".

Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu said those who violated election rules by prematurely declaring victory risked incurring the "wrath of the law".

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