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Zimbabwe’s Worst Fears About Postelection Violence Are Being Realized

Opposition supporters in the capital were met with gunfire, tear gas, water cannons, and tanks.

Posted on August 1, 2018, at 12:56 p.m. ET

Philimon Bulawayo / Reuters

An MDC supporter in Harare.

HARARE — Zimbabwe’s army and police opened fire on opposition party supporters Wednesday amid delays in announcing the winner of the presidential election.

At least one person is reported to have been killed in downtown Harare when the army stepped in after police had fired water cannons and used tear gas against protesters, while a military helicopter was seen flying over the capital.

Update: Am in a safe place, story coming soon. Here is what the water tank situation looked earlier at Rainbow Towers

The violence unfolded near the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party and outside the building where election results were supposed to be announced.

MDC leader Nelson Chamisa has already declared victory in Monday’s election despite no official results being released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which, under the country’s constitution, has until Saturday to do so.

THANK YOU ZIMBABWE ...I’m humbled by the support you have given to me as a Presidential Candidate. We have won the popular vote. You voted for total Change in this past election!We have won this one together. No amount of results manipulation will alter your WILL #Godisinit

Chamisa has accused the ZEC of rigging the election and deliberately delaying announcing the result, a strategy he said was meant to “prepare [Zimbabweans] mentally to accept fake presidential results.”

Meanwhile, President Emmerson Mnangagwa — who succeeded Robert Mugabe as leader after he was overthrown in a coup last year — tweeted an appeal for calm.

At this crucial time, I call on everyone to desist from provocative declarations and statements. We must all demonstrate patience and maturity, and act in a way that puts our people and their safety first. Now is the time for responsibility and above all, peace

Prior to violence breaking out between protesters and the army, the ZEC announced that Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF party had won a majority in legislative elections that also took place Monday.

They also said there would be a further delay in declaring the winner of the presidential election — the first major poll to ever take place in Zimbabwe without Mugabe on the ballot.

Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi / AP

A result is now expected tomorrow.

In the same Rainbow Towers building where ZEC officials were due to announce results, observer missions were delivering their assessments of polling day.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters

Soldiers open fire to disperse crowds outside the MDC headquarters.

But as the European Union mission in Zimbabwe reported that Election Day had been largely peaceful, violent scenes were taking place right outside.

Initially, the demonstrations were passionate, yet nonviolent. But as the day wore on, the aggression on both sides increased as protesters blocked the entrance to Rainbow Towers and started setting things on fire, sending huge plumes of smoke into the air.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters

The delay in announcing a winner in the presidential election has been blamed by ZEC on a constitutional requirement for all presidential candidates — 23 in this election — to review and sign off on the final results.

This is the first time the EU has been invited to oversee an election in Zimbabwe since 2002. That trip ended with the chief observer getting kicked out of the country.

Preliminary statement by the @eueomzimbabwe on the 2018 harmonised elections in Zimbabwe. #eueomzimbabwe #ElectionsZW

Their report noted that the election process had shown major improvements from their last mission, but that it was disturbed by the prevalence of voter intimidation and a lack of trust in the voting process.

“These elections were seen as a critical test of Zimbabwe’s reform process,” said chief observer Elmar Brok in a statement sent to BuzzFeed News. “In some senses, up to this point, the conduct of the polls has had a number of positive features, but in other senses serious concerns remain. Now we hope for a transparent results process.”

Mike Hutchings / Reuters

MDC supporters hold spent rounds and show their injuries after soldiers opened fire.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.