Zimbabwe’s President holds talks with opposition after unrest

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Harare, Aug 2 (IANS) Zimbabwe’s incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday said he was holding talks with the country’s main opposition leader in a bid to restore calm, a day after three people were killed amid clashes in the capital.

Scuffles between Zimbabwe’s security forces and opposition supporters broke out on Wednesday after the latter took to the streets to protest alleged fraud in the presidential elections.

“We have been in communication with (opposition leader) Nelson Chamisa to discuss how to immediately diffuse the situation and we must maintain this dialogue in order to protect the peace we hold dear,” Mnangagwa said in a post to Twitter.

Zimbabwe Police and Army used water cannons, tear gas and live ammunition in order to disperse protesters.

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Mnangagwa expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and wished “a speedy recovery to all those injured in yesterday’s events”.

The 75-year-old has also called for “an independent investigation” into the violence that prompted international calls for restraint. “We believe in transparency and accountability… those responsible should be identified and brought to justice,” he tweeted.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged Zimbabwe’s politicians to exercise restraint while UK Foreign Office Minister Harriett Baldwin said she was “deeply concerned” by the violence, the BBC reported.

The US Embassy in Harare urged the Army to “use restraint”, saying the country had an “historic opportunity” for a brighter future.

Human rights group Amnesty International’s acting secretary general Colm O. Cuanachain said that the “militarisation” of the election aftermath was “muzzling freedom of expression, association and assembly”.

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“People must be guaranteed their right to protest,” he said.

No violence was reported on Thursday. Armed policemen and soldiers were driving around the city shouting, “Behave yourself, people of Zimbabwe”.

Meanwhile, opposition presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa posted several messages to his Twitter account stating that, according to a parallel vote count by the Movement for Democratic Change party, he won the election.

The opposition coalition has raised doubts about the transparency of the electoral process and accused the Electoral Commission of being biased in favour of the ruling Zanu-PF party and of voluntarily delaying the declaration of results.

For its part, the poll body has not yet published data related to the presidential election, claiming that the representatives of the 23 candidates had not yet verified all the results.

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On July 30, Zimbabwe held its first presidential election since the removal of its former leader Robert Mugabe, who was forced to step down after a military takeover in November 2017.

–IANS

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