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Zimbabwe's Mnangagwa urges unity, pledges post-election violence probe

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on as he gives a media conference at the State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 3, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

President Emmerson Mnangagwa called on Friday for Zimbabwe to unite behind him after he was declared winner of national elections, but the opposition leader insisted he had won and said he would use all means necessary to challenge the result.

Attempting to sound a conciliatory note, Mnangagwa vowed to be president for all Zimbabweans and declared his rival Nelson Chamisa would have a vital role to play in Zimbabwe’s future.

He also said the military’s use of deadly violence in which six people were killed following the vote would be investigated by an independent commission.

“To Nelson Chamisa, I want to say: you have a crucial role to play in Zimbabwe’s present and its unfolding future. Let us both call for peace and unity in our land,” Mnangagwa said.

But Chamisa told reporters the army crackdown on opposition supporters had been authorised by Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF because it had lost the election, the first since the army removed 94-year-old Robert Mugabe from office in November.

“We are going to explore all necessary means, legal and constitutional, to ensure that the will of the people is protected,” Chamisa said.

Voting passed off relatively smoothly on the day, raising hopes of a break from a history of disputed and violent polls.

But the army’s post-election crackdown and opposition claims that the vote was rigged revealed the deep rifts in Zimbabwean society that developed during Mugabe’s four decades in power, when the security forces became a byword for heavy-handedness.

After three days of claims and counterclaims, 75-year-old Mnangagwa - a former spy chief under Mugabe - secured victory.

Supporters of President Emmerson Mnangagwa's ruling ZANU-PF party gather to celebrate his election victory in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 3, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

He polled 2.46 million votes against 2.15 million for 40-year-old opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced in the early hours of Friday morning.

“This is a new beginning. Let us join hands,” Mnangagwa said on Twitter. “We won the election freely and fairly, and have nothing to hide or fear.”

Seeking to explain the army’s post-election crackdown, he said later: “The police were overwhelmed and then they summoned assistance from the army to stop the wanton destruction.”

Mnangagwa won 50.8 percent of the vote, official figures showed, just over the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff. The delays in announcing the presidential results and the narrow margin of victory fuelled the opposition accusations of rigging.

He now faces the challenge of persuading the international community that the army crackdown and lapses in the election process will not derail his promise of political and economic reforms needed to fix a moribund economy.

Chamisa, who accused the commission of trying to rig the vote, said it should release “proper and verified” results.

He told a news conference he would pursue all legal means necessary to challenge the result, which had serious legitimacy problems. He declined to divulge the specific action that his party would take to challenge the election outcome.

(Source: Reuters)

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