UK has called on Zimbabwe’s political leaders to ensure calm and restraint after three opposition protesters were killed in post-election clashes in Harare.
Troops opened fire to clear the capital’s streets of demonstrators who accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling party of trying to rig Monday’s election.
“Deeply concerned by today’s violence in Harare. Call on Zimbabwe’s political leaders to take responsibility for ensuring calm and restraint at this critical moment.
We’re monitoring the situation closely,” Harriet Baldwin, a minister in Britain’s Foreign Office said on Twitter late.
Zimbabwean soldiers ordered shopkeepers to close and leave the center of the capital, two store-owners said, the day after three people were killed by troops sent in to disperse crowds of opposition supporters.
The Zimbabwe Election Commission is expected to start announcing the results of Monday’s presidential election, which the opposition says has been rigged in favour of Mnangagwa.
Gunfire crackled as troops, backed by armoured vehicles and a military helicopter and some with their faces masked, cleared the streets of opposition protesters.
The unrest started soon after Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), declared that he had won the popular vote.
After burning tyres in the streets, scores of his supporters attacked riot police near the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) headquarters. Officers responded with tear gas and water cannon.
“I was making a peaceful protest. I was beaten by soldiers,” said Norest Kemvo, who had gashes to his face and right hand. “This is our government. This is exactly why we wanted change.
They are stealing our election.”
Mnangagwa said the violence was meant to disrupt the election and blamed the MDC leadership.
“We hold the opposition MDC Alliance and its whole leadership responsible for this disturbance of national peace, which was meant to disrupt the electoral process,” Mnangagwa said, according to ZBC.
Chamisa’s spokesman, Nkululeko Sibanda, told newsmen the army’s reaction was unjustified.
“Today we saw the deployment of military tanks and firing of live ammunition on civilians for no apparent reason.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Zimbabwe’s political leaders and people to exercise restraint and reject any form of violence.
Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the army had been called in to ensure “peace and tranquillity”.
Charamba said the troops were deployed at the request of police who could not cope with the violence, and will remain under police command.
As gunfire reverberated through downtown Harare, Mnangagwa called for calm and urged patience while results were collated.
Many protesters accused the army of unprovoked brutality.
“We had no weapons. Why are the army here beating us? shooting us? This is not an election it is a disgrace on our country,” one young man, Colbert Mugwenhi, said.
A Reuters witness saw soldiers with sticks beat two people and counted at least five trucks full of soldiers.
“We are tired of them stealing our votes. This time we will not allow it, we will fight,” said a protester who wore a red MDC beret in central Harare.