At least 6 dead in Zimbabwe after opposition protesters claim the elections were rigged

Wilfred Kajese/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesZimbabwian police are seen as supporters of the opposition party protest against the results of Zimbabwes presidential election, in Harare on August 1, 2018.
  • Protests in Harare, Zimbabwe, descended into chaos on Wednesday after supporters of the main opposition party accused the ruling party of trying to rig the country’s elections.
  • Soldiers had to step in as protesters clashed with police.
  • At least six people have died, Zimbabwe police said.
  • Zimbabwe’s electoral commission said Wednesday evening it will release the presidential election results “sometime tomorrow.”

At least six people in Zimbabwe’s capital have died in clashes between police and protesters after the main opposition leader accused the ruling party of trying to rig the country’s election, Zimbabwe police say.

Clashes in Harare descended into chaos on Wednesday after supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai (MDC-T) party burned tires and blocked streets in response to the Zanu-PF parliamentary majority victory.

The MDC-T party began protests after the parliamentary results were announced Tuesday. Despite urges from officials, including those from the EU and US, Zimbabwe’s election commission has yet to release the presidential results.

The commission said Wednesday evening it would release the presidential election results “sometime tomorrow,” although results were yet to come out as of Thursday evening.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a statement that the opposition under Nelson Chamisa is “responsible for this disturbance of national peace” meant to “disrupt the electoral process.” A spokesperson for the opposition told reporters that Chamisa is “shocked” by the violence.

Soldiers shot dead one person near a bus rank as they stepped in to disperse the protests on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The victim was locally identified as 42-year-old street vendor Ishmeil Kumeni. The identities of the other victims are not known.

Photos posted on social media also showed people running away from tear gas and water cannon shots, followed by multiple trucks driving across town.

Joseph Cotterill, the Southern Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, described seeing armoured cars heading toward the headquarters of ruling party Zanu-PF, watching masked soldiers beating people, and hearing screams and cracks of gunfire on the street.

Piers Scholfield, a BBC News producer, also described seeing soldiers on foot smashing a journalist’s camera.

Wednesday’s riots come after millions of Zimbabweans voted for a new president and parliament on Monday, in what was the nation’s first election in its 38-year history without Robert Mugabe as a contender.

Official results declared the ruling Zanu-PF party the winner in the parliamentary elections, while results of the presidential election have yet to come.

The presidential winner is not clear at this moment, although both leaders of Zanu-PF and MDC-T – incumbent president Emmerson Mnangagwa and former pastor Nelson Chamisa, respectively – have claimed victory already.

Earlier on Wednesday, Chamisa tweeted that his party had won the country’s popular vote, and accused the country’s electoral commission of delaying its announcement of the presidential election results in order to “buy time and reverse the people’s presidential election victory.”

Meanwhile, Mnangagwa urged Zimbabweans to “demonstrate patience and maturity, and act in a way that puts our people and their safety first.”

The US Embassy in Harare tweeted a statement calling for government leaders and law enforcement officers to calm the violence.

The election campaign itself has been full of dramatic moments, including an explosion at an Mnangagwa campaign rally in June, which he said was an attempt by Mugabe loyalists to kill him.

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