Zimbabwe election protests turn fatal after soldiers crack down on demonstrators calling results a sham
Demonstrators in support of Zimbabwe’s opposition party took the streets of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, following the country’s recent national elections, which saw the ZANU-PF party maintain its grip on the country. Protesters called the election a sham, and witnesses say that they saw soldiers assault several of these protestors with makeshift batons, tear gas and bullets. The demonstrators fought back by throwing stones, which were largely ineffective at causing any real harm due to the use of riot shields by the soldiers.
Six people have been reported dead and 14 have been injured as a result of the protests. Nkululeko Sibanda, spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, tells Vox: “We condemn in the strongest sense the action that was taken today. There is no justification whatsoever for the brutality we experienced.”
In addition to these events, local police raided MDC’s party headquarters and have accused the party’s candidate of inciting violence, even as witnesses say the government’s soldiers have been the ones bringing violence to the peaceful protests. European Union (EU) observers have noted that there was “improved political climate, inclusive participation rights and a peaceful vote.” However, the observers also noted that an “unlevel playing field, intimidation of voters, and lack of trust in the process undermined the preelection environment.”
Even though the vote has been finalized, Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission has delayed officially announcing a winner, which has only served to fuel the speculation that the election has been rigged. The commission expects to officially announce a winner to the contested election results on Thursday.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, an election observer and former Liberian president tells the Washington Post: “The more the presidential vote is delayed, the more it calls into question the population’s confidence in the election process,”
The winner of the contest between Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over the country after Robert Mugabe was ousted in November of 2017, and opposition candidate Nelson Chamia hinges heavily on issues of Zimbabwe’s economy and its relationship with powers in the West. Mugabe left the country’s economy in a terrible state, and no matter who wins the election, they will be facing pressure to remedy it immediately.