Army clear streets as Zimbabwe awaits election results

Soldiers and police cleared the streets of central Harare on Thursday as the Zimbabwean authorities came under mounting pressure to release results of presidential elections after a deadly crackdown on protesters.

Landmark elections — the first since autocrat Robert Mugabe was ousted last year — turned bloody on Wednesday when troops opened fire on demonstrations against alleged electoral fraud, leaving three dead and prompting an international outcry.

The government accused the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party of inciting the unrest and vowed to enforce a security clampdown.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday said he wanted an independent investigation into the killings, and that he sought to settle differences “peacefully”.

On Thursday, soldiers were on guard outside the headquarters of the ruling ZANU-PF party, while armoured personnel carriers, water cannon trucks and police anti-riot vans took position outside the MDC headquarters.

Soldiers brandishing assault rifles and police shouted at pedestrians and traders to leave central Harare, AFP witnessed.

“I wasn’t sure whether it’s safe to come to work. We had to consult among ourselves,” said one worker who declined to give his name.

In a late-night press conference on Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu warned further protests would not be tolerated.

“The opposition… are testing our resolve and I think they are making a big mistake,” he said.

The MDC said the army had opened fire “for no apparent reason,” killing unarmed civilians.

The presidential election race has pitted 75-year-old Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former ally in ZANU-PF, against the MDC’s leader, Nelson Chamisa, 35 years his junior.