Harare on edge after deadly post-election crackdown in Zimbabwe

Harare - By Kate Bartlett and Problem Masau, - A tense Zimbabwe was on Thursday promised the results of its pivotal presidential election "very soon," a day after a government crackdown on opposition protesters saw three people killed.

Harare's streets were nearly deserted, with shops shuttered and soldiers and police present in the city.
There were increased roadblocks and police searched some of the commuters who did go into work in the normally bustling capital.
The winner of the presidential vote has yet to be declared, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa - from the same party that for decades supported former leader Robert Mugabe - up against opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
In a press briefing in the middle of the day, Zimbabwe's under-pressure electoral authorities said they would announce the results "very soon." Later on they said results would be delivered starting at 10 pm (2000 GMT).
The ruling Zanu-PF party urged the opposition to accept defeat graciously but said they would also step aside "in the unlikely event we don't win."
Paul Mangwana, Zanu-PF spokesman, slammed the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for the violent protests.
The parliamentary results gave a huge win to the ruling party but the result of the presidential election has yet to be announced.
Asked by dpa whether Zanu-PF would heed its own advice and bow out peacefully should opposition presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa win, Mangwana said yes.
"When you control a two-thirds majority of parliament, there's no way you fail to win the presidential election," he said.
Mnangagwa himself had also blamed the MDC for the violence, but appeared more conciliatory on Thursday, saying he was in touch with Chamisa.
"We have been in communication with Nelson Chamisa to discuss how to immediately diffuse the situation, and we must maintain this dialogue in order to protect the peace," Mnangagwa tweeted.
In another sign of the tension surrounding the vote, Zimbabwe police sealed off the headquarters of the MDC in Harare on Thursday.
The polls were the first since the ouster of long-time leader Mugabe in November last year in a military coup. He was replaced as president by his former comrade, Mnangagwa.
According to official results already released by the electoral commission, the ruling Zanu-PF party won the majority of parliamentary seats in Monday's election. Zanu-PF won 144 seats and the MDC 64.
Regarding the validity of the vote count and why there have been delays, electoral officials said: "There's absolutely no skulduggery or anything untoward happening."
The vote on Monday was peaceful, with huge turnout and Zimbabweans expressing hope that whoever won would usher in a new prosperous era help fix the country's economy.
However on Wednesday, MDC supporters took to the streets to protest what they said was a rigged election and the government responded by deploying armoured vehicles and firing live rounds.
Soldiers ran through crowds in the Zimbabwean capital, lashing out at
protesters and journalists with their rifle butts. At least three people were confirmed killed.
Electoral official Qhubani Moyo said the ZEC "implores all political parties and candidates ... to call upon their members to desist from violence ... The commission calls upon the public to be patient."
The ZEC noted that they had taken their website offline after hackers infiltrated it and "posted images." The ZEC did not say what the images contained, but there were reports they showed dead protesters for Wednesday's violence.
The UN secretary general expressed concern Thursday over post-election violence.
Antonio Guterres called on "the political leaders and the population to exercise restraint and reject any form of violence while awaiting the announcement of the election results," a statement by his spokesman said.
The US embassy in Harare also urged restraint, while election observers from the Commonwealth group of nations expressed regret over the violence.

Thursday, August 2nd 2018
By Kate Bartlett and Problem Masau,

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