At Least 3 Dead Following Unrest In Zimbabwe
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Two days after a historic election and before the results are in, Zimbabwe's military has taken over the streets of the capital city, Harare. They're trying to quell protesters.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Singing in foreign language).
CHANG: The demonstrations today started out peaceful but tense. The successor to longtime ruler Robert Mugabe faces a popular challenger. And international observers raise serious questions about the vote.
Protesters gathered outside of the election command center and other locations, prompting security forces to move in. The government cracked down, clearing the streets with tear gas and gunfire and later announced that three people were killed. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.
EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: At the electoral command center, everything is proceeding as usual.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: In respect of Makoni West constituency, the results are as follows. Chinyadza Webber, MDC-T - 2,507.
PERALTA: The electoral commission is slowly announcing results. But just outside the gates, a storm is brewing. Supporters of the opposition see the writing on the wall. So far, the results show ZANU-PF, the ruling party, taking a super majority in parliament. So the presidential results will be no surprise. It will be rigged in favor of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, they say.
PERALTA: Farai Chingosho is just watching the protest. It's too early for this, he says. They should at least wait for presidential results. But, he says, the fact that a few hundred young people are here outside this high-rise where votes are being counted tells you something is very wrong.
FARAI CHINGOSHO: This surely shows that something is very, very wrong.
PERALTA: And as we talk, supporters of the opposition party, MDC, throw rocks at ruling party ZANU-PF headquarters. And things get bad.
(SOUNDBITE OF ROCKS THUDDING)
PERALTA: So tear gas has been fired at protesters who are throwing rocks.
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PERALTA: Oh, those are not - that is not tear gas. That's bullets.
This scene repeats itself across downtown. Protesters attack the electoral commission. They set fires on the streets. And soon, the military takes over. Soldiers on armored personnel carriers man machine guns. They hit pedestrians with sticks and weapons. On state TV, the president blames the opposition for the violence.
EDDIE: If you see us running in the street like this, it's not what we want. But we are fighting for our freedom.
PERALTA: That's Eddie, a protester who would only give me his first name because he fears retaliation. He says he was happy with Zimbabwe. President Mnangagwa ousted longtime leader Robert Mugabe and promised a new Zimbabwe. So for the first time, people were expressing themselves freely. For the first time, many thought they could vote their heart without fear. They thought they could get free, fair and credible elections.
EDDIE: We thought, when we removed Mugabe, everything is going to be smooth, as they promised us. But this is not the situation anymore. We are sick and tired of these guys.
PERALTA: And today, he says, President Mnangagwa proved that the new Zimbabwe is exactly the same as the old one. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Harare.
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