“Let us look forward with hope and love. Let bygones be bygones… Let us turn over a new leaf and renew ourselves.”
Those were the hopeful words of Emmerson Mnangagwa as he settled into the chair of former president Robert Mugabe last December. Mr. Mugabe was not present, having been removed in a “soft coup” by members of his own party.
Now, some six months later, Mr. Mnangagwa has been elected to the top job, fair and square according to the nation’s electoral commission, but his soldiers appear not to have gotten the word. Streets in the capital city Harare were battlegrounds with tanks speeding through, guns firing at citizens running for cover and spilt blood staining the ground.
Vote tallies were not announced in the days following nationwide polls, opening the way for opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa, reviewing his own tallies, to declare he had clearly won the election and that the official results were “unverified and fake.”
A spokesman for Chamisa addressed a press conference: “I make a difference between the president-elect and the president-declared,” said Nkululeko Sibanda, “because we do know that President Chamisa won this election.” No details have been announced on the suit being prepared to challenge the election outcome.
Mnangagwa’s victory was endorsed by the African Union and SADC, the Southern African Development Community, South Africa and Zambia, but international observers and human rights groups filed separate assessments of the election’s fairness. The British government said it was deeply concerned by the post-election violence and the “disproportionate response from the security forces.”
Amnesty International said more than 60 people were arbitrarily arrested in a “vicious campaign of torture, intimidation and suppression of dissenting voices.”
On Monday, 22 members of Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) appeared in court facing charges of inciting violence and causing malicious damage to the ruling ZANU-PF party offices. They must return for bail hearings because it was no little time for the judge to hear their cases.
Mnangagwa has said the army’s use of violence in Harare would be investigated independently, although he also suggested he understood the use of military force, saying that police were overwhelmed by opposition protesters.
Inauguration of the new president is slated for August 12.