Harare inferno: Zanu cars, offices burnt as minister defends army cordon

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An inferno raging on Harare streets

By Reuters

Zimbabwe Deputy Minister of Finance & Economic Development has defended the decision to resort to military intervention as unrest grips the capital Harare.

“You burn our vehicles at Zanu PF Harare Province offices and you think the law enforcement agents will fold their hands!!!” said Hon Terence Mukupe‏, the Member of Parliament, Harare East.

He added: “Reward being offered for the whereabouts of Tendai Biti. Justice awaits him!!!!”

Automatic gunfire crackled in the streets of Wednesday as soldiers stepped in to disperse protesters who clashed with police after the main opposition leader accused the ruling party of trying to rig the country’s election.

At least one person was shot dead by the soldiers near a bus rank, witnesses at the scene told a Reuters photographer.

European Union observers questioned the conduct of the presidential and parliamentary poll, Zimbabwe’s first since Robert Mugabe was forced to resign following a de facto coup in November after nearly 40 years in power.

The observers expressed concern about delays in releasing the results of the presidential contest.

The leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Nelson Chamisa, said on Twitter he had won the “popular vote” in Monday’s election, in which he challenged Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa from the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Mnangagwa also took to Twitter, calling for calm and urging patience before the results were announced.

Opposition supporters burnt tires in the center of Harare, blocking some streets and engaging in running battles with police who fired water cannon to disperse the protesters.

Soldiers then arrived at the scene, jumping out of several armoured personnel carriers. Gunfire was heard and an army helicopter flew in the skies above Harare, witnesses said.

The electoral commission had said it would start announcing results for the presidential race from 10.30 GMT but election officials said they would announce the results from Thursday.

“I was making a peaceful protest. I was beaten by soldiers,” 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.”

Another protester, Colbert Mugwenhi said: “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.”

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 one protester who wore a red MDC beret in central Harare.

A bleeding protester after being shot

ZANU-PF wins parliamentary majority

With three seats yet to be declared, ZANU-PF had 144 seats compared to 61 for the MDC, meaning the ruling party achieved a two-thirds majority which would allow it to change the constitution at will.

Chamisa accused ZANU-PF of trying to steal the election. He accused the commission of releasing the parliamentary results first to prepare Zimbabweans for a Mnangagwa victory.

“The strategy is meant to prepare Zimbabwe mentally to accept fake presidential results. We’ve more votes than ED (Emmerson Dambudzo). We won the popular vote (and) will defend it,” Chamisa said on Twitter.

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