Harare is burning while ZEC hold onto Zimbabwe election results

There were ugly scenes that characterised the streets of Harare on the 1st August 2018. There were scenes that resembled a war zone. It resembled a country at war with its own citizens. The pre-election period was generally peaceful, and everyone expected that environment to continue and last forever. But what caused the ugly scenes that were witnessed on the 1st August 2018? Who is to blame for these ugly scenes.

A soldier fires shots towards demonstrators, on August 1 2018, in Harare, as protests erupted over alleged fraud in the country’s election.
Protests in Zimbabwe’s historic elections turned bloody on August 1 as a man was shot dead during demonstrations over alleged vote fraud and the president appealed for calm. The man died after soldiers fired live ammunition during opposition protests in downtown Harare, AFP reporters saw.

All the leaders who were leading all political parties were all preaching peace and tolerance during the election campaign period. The supporters of all political parties heeded the call for peace. So, what has changed now? The mood on the streets of Harare became tense soon after the voting process had finished and naturally everyone was anxiously waiting for the results of the vote. The results of the votes slowly started trickling in. As the results trickled in at a snail’s pace courtesy of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the voters and some contesting candidates naturally became impatient because of the slowness of the process.

Some of the candidates of some political parties started telling their supporters who were also waiting patiently that they had won the election and all they were waiting was for ZEC to officially announce that their leader had clearly won the election. Naturally the supporters began their celebrations in advance. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission then deliberately started announcing results for National Assembly starting with the results from the most remote areas of the country while ignoring results from areas that were within a stone throw away from their National Command Centre. This incensed the urban voters especially Harare which is an opposition stronghold.

The celebrations then degenerated into demonstrations and acts of violence. The police who are supposed to maintain law and order then had to be called in. The police couldn’t deal with the disturbances to deal with the people who were causing the disturbance and they chose to call in the Army to help contain the violence. The Army then reacted with brutal force. The Army used disproportionate force and ended up killing at least three people. The army used live bullets on innocent civilians and whoever gave the order to deploy armed soldiers to deal with demonstrators should be made to account. Then Emmerson Mnangagwa came out to blame opposition leaders for the death of demonstrators. No one condone violence or perpetrators of violence but how do the president justify deploying armed soldiers to deal with unarmed civilians and fire live bullets? These protestors were demonstrating against alleged rigging by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which is within their rights to protest. Firearms must never be used for containing violence by protestors. Firearms may only be used in defence against an imminent threat of death or serious injury in order to save another life. So, whose life were this soldier who pulled the trigger saving? The army’s conduct should be promptly investigated, with those responsible brought to justice. By using live ammunition against unarmed protestors, the army has broken the same rule of law that they should protect.

The militarisation of the prevailing post-election environment is muzzling freedom of expression, association and assembly. This environment resembles a military state. People must be guaranteed their right to protest. Media freedom must also be guaranteed and respected in this prevailing post-election environment not the kicking and beating up of journalists witnessed in Harare recently. Journalists should not be intimidated for doing their work. The soldiers should return to the barracks and that’s where they belong. The police are well trained to deal with the public and are also well trained to deal with protestors. The unleashing of the militia on the streets of Zimbabwe should stop forthwith and the should return to the barracks.

ZEC should also not continue to hold the presidential results any longer unnecessarily. ZEC should not continue to hide behind the law that they constitutionally have a maximum of five days in which to announce the elections. ZEC’s continued delay in announcing the Presidential election result is also incensing the public mood and the political temperature is bound to rise as the public don’t trust ZEC as an independent body. The public actually think that the continued delay in announcing the result points to manipulation and rigging of the vote in favour of the incumbent. The voters want to know where their vote has gone.



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