Sunday 16 December 2018

Harare calm as Zimbabwe opposition blames ‘fake results’ for election defeat

President Emmerson Mnangagwa urged Zimbabweans to stay peaceful after being declared the winner of a tight election.

A police cordon in Harare (AP Photo/Mujahid Safodien)
A police cordon in Harare (AP Photo/Mujahid Safodien)

By Christopher Torchia and Farai Mutsaka, Associated Press

Zimbabwe’s capital was calm on Friday hours after President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner of a tight election, which began with Monday’s peaceful vote but turned deadly when the military fired on protesters 48 hours later.

Six people were killed when the army rolled in tanks to disperse rock-throwing demonstrators who denounced Mr Mnangagwa and alleged vote-rigging.

Harare’s roads appeared to be free from the troops on Friday, but water cannons and police remained at the headquarters of the main opposition party, a day after authorities raided it and made 18 arrests.

Mr Mnangagwa said he was “humbled” by the victory and urged Zimbabweans to stay peaceful.

The opposition has said it will challenge in court the results of the election, which Mr Mnangagwa won with just over 50% of the vote.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, who had more than 44%, said “unverified fake results” had been announced by the electoral commission.

The commission “must release proper & verified results endorsed by parties”, Mr Chamisa tweeted. “The level of opaqueness, truth deficiency, moral decay & values deficit is baffling.”

In a brief moment of drama shortly before the commission announced the winner in Friday’s early hours, two agents for Mr Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change party took the stage and told waiting journalists that they “totally reject” the results and said they had not signed the election results as required, in protest. Police escorted them from the room.

The week’s events left many Zimbabweans with a sense of unease and questions about how different Mr Mnangagwa is from his predecessor and former mentor, long-time leader Robert Mugabe, who stepped down in November under military pressure amid a ruling party feud after 37 years in power.

Mr Mnangagwa, 75, has tried to recast himself as a voice of change, declaring that once-prosperous Zimbabwe is “open for business” and inviting the Western election observers who for years had been banned by Mugabe.

If the election is judged credible, it will be a big step towards the lifting of international sanctions on this southern African nation whose economy has long collapsed and whose reputation has suffered after years of repression of the opposition and allegedly rigged votes.

So far international observers have issued mixed reviews, calling Monday’s election peaceful and a break from the past but expressing grave concern about the military’s “excessive” use of force.

They criticised the delay in releasing the results of the presidential vote, saying it raised concerns about possible manipulation.

Press Association

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