A supporter of Zimbabwean's main opposition party MDC, who was arrested following clashes, is seen detained in a police vehicle outside the MDC headquarters, in Harare, Thursday Aug. 2, 2018. Gunfire, tear gas, and burning cars disrupted Harare's streets Wednesday as armed riot police and army troops clashed with rock-throwing opposition supporters after the Electoral Commission announced it would not give the results in July 30 2018 presidential elections today.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

After violence, Zimbabwe awaits release of presidential vote

August 02, 2018 - 1:10 pm

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe's ruling party and the main opposition group on Thursday both declared that they won the presidential election ahead of the imminent announcement of the result, reflecting a bitter rivalry that was exacerbated by deadly violence in the capital.

The death toll from the clashes on Wednesday rose to six, police said, while 14 were injured and 18 people were arrested at the offices of the main opposition party amid tensions over an election that was supposed to restore trust in Zimbabwe after decades of rule by Robert Mugabe. .

There were conflicting accounts of who was responsible for the bloodshed in the capital of Harare, which happened after opposition demonstrators protested alleged vote-rigging and rioted in some areas. Police countered with tear gas and water cannon, and then soldiers fired live rounds to disperse angry crowds.

While the military has been criticized for its bloody crackdown, police spokeswoman Charity Charamba blamed rioters for the unrest, saying some were drunk and that they destroyed eight cars and 22 shops. About 4,000 opposition supporters, some carrying iron bars and stones, were "besieging" downtown Harare, she said.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said it will start announcing results of the presidential election at 10 p.m. (20:00GMT) Thursday, though by law it has five days from the vote on Monday to deliver the final tally and it has sometimes given conflicting statements about when it is releasing information. International election observers urged the commission to reveal the presidential results as soon as possible, saying delays will increase speculation about vote-rigging.

Meanwhile, police raided the party headquarters of the main opposition candidate, Nelson Chamisa, and a lawyers' group said he was being investigated by police for allegedly inciting violence. Eighteen people in the offices were arrested, police said.

Chamisa, opposition politician Tendai Biti and several others are suspected of the crimes of "possession of dangerous weapons" and "public violence," according to a copy of a search warrant, which was seen by The Associated Press. The warrant authorizes police to search for and confiscate any evidence as part of their investigation.

The authenticity of the warrant was confirmed by Kumbirai Mafunda, a spokesman for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

Chamisa, however, said the police who raided his headquarters and seized computers were looking for what he called evidence of vote-rigging. The evidence already had been moved to a "safe house," he said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party have accused the opposition of inciting the deadly violence. The opposition, human rights activists and international election observers condemned the "excessive" force used to crush the protests and appealed to all sides to exercise restraint.

Opposition demonstrations had broken out after electoral officials said the ruling party had won a parliamentary majority in the elections, and Paul Mangwana, a ZANU-PF spokesman, said at a news conference he anticipated similar success in the presidential race. Elsewhere in Harare, Chamisa said he was confident that his Movement for Democratic change party would be forming the next government.

As the rival camps sparred over the election outcome, they also appealed for calm amid a fog of conflicting accounts. Mnangagwa said his government was in touch with Chamisa in an attempt to ease the tensions, though the opposition leader said he had not received any communication.

Soldiers cleared people from the streets of downtown Harare on Thursday after they swept in and opened fire on Wednesday to disperse protesters who alleged fraud in the peaceful election, the first without Mugabe on the ballot. The electoral commission has said the vote was free and fair.

A credible vote is crucial to the lifting of international sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe so that its collapsed economy can recover. Elections under Mugabe's 37-year rule were marked by violence and intimidation against the opposition, as well as numerous allegations of fraud.

Mnangagwa, who is close to the military, called for an "independent investigation" into the violence in Harare, saying those responsible "should be identified and brought to justice."

The military deployment was the first time that soldiers had appeared in the streets of the capital since Mugabe's resignation in November after a military takeover. At that time, thousands of jubilant residents welcomed the soldiers as liberators.

Some Harare residents, standing amid the shattered windows of the violence, expressed frustration and exhaustion.

"We are a peaceful nation," said 29-year-old Sifas Gavanga. "We don't deserve the death we saw."


Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa

AP Editorial Categories: 
Comments ()