President Emmerson Mnangagwa today urged Zimbabweans to unite after he was declared the first elected head of state since Robert Mugabe’s removal from power, but the opposition leader insisted he had won and pledged to challenge the result.
Sounding a conciliatory note after six people were killed in a post-election crackdown by the military, Mnangagwa vowed to be president for all Zimbabweans and declared his rival Nelson Chamisa would have a vital role to perform in Zimbabwe’s future.
He also said the army’s use of violence in Harare after the vote would be investigated independently, although he also suggested he understood the resort to military force, remarking that police had been overwhelmed by opposition demonstrators.
The army’s clampdown and opposition claims that the vote was rigged revealed the deep fissures in Zimbabwean society that developed during the four-decade rule of Mugabe, when the security forces became a byword for heavy-handedness.
In an apparent effort at soothing those rifts, Mnangagwa, 75, said: “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.”
But Chamisa, 40, told reporters Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-PF had authorized the army crackdown on opposition supporters because it knew it had lost the election, the first since the army removed 94-year-old 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 violence in Harare darkened the political atmosphere.
After three days of claims and counterclaims, 75-year-old Mnangagwa – a former spy chief under Mugabe – secured victory.
He polled 2.46 million votes against 2.15 million for Chamisa, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced in the early hours of this 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.”
His bid to repair the image of a nation known for repression and economic collapse was further hurt by a police raid on the headquarters of Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change and the dispersal of journalists before a Chamisa news conference.
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