AILSA CHANG, HOST:
This week in Zimbabwe, there was a vote, then accusations of vote rigging followed by street protests and a military crackdown. At least six people died. Now finally we have results in Zimbabwe's first election since Dictator Robert Mugabe was forced out in November.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Mnangagwa, Emmerson Dambudzo of ZANU-PF party is therefore duly declared elected president of the republic of Zimbabwe with effect from the 3rd of August 2018.
CHANG: That's the electoral commission announcing that the winner is Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man who ousted and replaced Mugabe late last year. NPR's Eyder Peralta joins us now from Harare with the details. Hey, Eyder.
EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.
CHANG: All right, so this is the man who took Mugabe's place in November. He's now won a full five-year term. Can you tell us a little more about him?
PERALTA: Yeah. I think his nicknames will tell you a lot about him. They call him the crocodile...
PERALTA: ...The Enforcer, the bodyguard, the spymaster. And all of those are because of the services he provided to Robert Mugabe, the former leader of this country. In a lot of ways, he was Mugabe's right-hand man. And he - over the many years he was next to Mugabe, he was implicated in some of the worst acts of violence in this country. And then things changed pretty rapidly. He got - he was vice president, then he was bumped from the vice presidency, forced into exile. And then he convinced the military to push his former ally Robert Mugabe out of power.
And in November, he took power, and he really made some positive changes here. You know, he took the police off the street. He - you know, Zimbabweans for the first time felt free to express themselves. And he ran a campaign in which he presented himself as a brand new Mnangagwa, as a softer version of Mnangagwa. And when he was asked, but you're the crocodile; you're the enforcer, he would often say, I'm not; I am soft as wool.
PERALTA: And so he is promising a new Zimbabwe.
CHANG: Was this the result that was expected? I can't tell that I'm hearing cheering in celebration in the background or more protests.
PERALTA: No, you're hearing celebration here. There's a small group of Mnangagwa supporters here outside the electoral control center. So was this expected - yes and no. I mean, we expected this because of the history of this country. ZANU-PF, which is his party, has ruled for 38 years, so it was hard to see them losing an election. It was not expected because this was really the opposition - the best chance the opposition has had to oust ZANU-PF. And the reason for that is because this is the first time they were allowed to campaign freely.
And you know, I went to many rallies here, and it was a stark contrast. I mean, the final rally - ZANU-PF held it at a stadium, and it was half empty, whereas the opposition had it in the middle of Harare, and there was tens of thousands of just jubilant people. So the streets would have told you that the results would have come out otherwise.
CHANG: Has the opposition conceded or responded in any way to these results?
PERALTA: They have. They say that they will not accept the results. And also they've said that they will not go to court. Nelson Chamisa, the opposition leader, said that going to court would be like venturing into a lion's den. And they, quote, "will not be a lion's meal." So we'll see what happens in the next few days.
CHANG: All right, that's NPR's Eyder Peralta in Harare, Zimbabwe. Thank you, Eyder.
PERALTA: Thank you, Ailsa.
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