Spurts of post-election violence in Zimbabwe were witnessed early this week moments after Zimbabweans voted in the first election since Mugabe was ousted in a bloodless coup. Mnangagwa has been declared winner while the opposition rejected the results throwing the country into a state of uncertainty. With six people already killed as a result, will democracy prevail?
The Zimbabwe elections of 2018 held on July 30 are historic for two main reasons; it’s the first election since 94-year-old Mugabe was ousted in a coup in November 2017 and because it’s also the first election which doesn’t feature Mugabe as a contestant since 1980.
Hailed and largely supported by Zimbabweans, the Mugabe ousting presented a ray of hope for the country which had suffered a great deal under the Mugabe regime. The country’s economy had under Mugabe hit a record low due to inflation and life expectancy dropped to 43 years. Children were forced to skip school and provide labor in hazardous tobacco fields in a bid to make ends meet. Despite this, Mugabe remained determined never to let go of the power button.
After the coup, Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared president before thousands of cheering Zimbabweans. He also promised an election after the current Mugabe term – in which he was now president – was complete. It is these elections that have caused political temperatures to rise and threaten chaos and post-election violence in Zimbabwe.
Shortly after the voting was completed, Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, who was an opposition candidate, led his supporters to the electoral commission offices while protesting the slow release of results. To them, the alleged slow pace meant the election was being rigged. They later declared themselves to have won the election even before the results were officially announced.
In response, the government unleashed the police on the protestors leading to violent clashes and the death of three people. But unable to quell the protests, the army was later deployed with hovering choppers, armored military vehicles and live ammunition. Harare the capital of Zimbabwe had now become the epicenter of the clashes and a no-go zone for anyone keen to stay alive.
“We will not tolerate any of the actions that were witnessed today. The opposition have perhaps interpreted our understanding to be weak, and I think they are testing our resolve and I think they are making a big mistake,” said Obert Mpofu, the Minister for Home Affairs in Zimbabwe in a press conference.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission would later declare Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) as the winner and president-elect. Glad to have won, Mnangagwa extended an olive branch to Chamisa saying, “You and I have a crucial role to play in Zimbabwe’s present and in its unfolding future.” Let us call for peace and unity in our land.” But the opposition camp has remained unimpressed and has rejected the results terming the election as illegitimate.