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Zimbabwe opposition says soldiers search for its supporters

August 4, 2018
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Opposition party supporters arrested during a raid at the party headquarters appear at the magistrates court in Harare, Zimbabwe, Saturday, Aug, 4, 2018. Zimbabwean President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa won an election Friday with just over 50 percent of the ballots as the ruling party maintained control of the government in the first vote since the fall of longtime leader Robert Mugabe. (AP Photo)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwean soldiers were searching parts of the capital for opposition supporters to detain after the disputed election, the main opposition party said Saturday, as elsewhere mourners gathered for a victim of Wednesday’s military crackdown — a woman shot in the back.

Nkululeko Sibanda, a top official in the Movement for Democratic Change party, spoke at a courthouse in Harare where more than 20 supporters accused of inciting public violence were told their bail hearing was pushed to Monday. Sibanda said they included people arrested on Thursday during a police raid on party headquarters.

“A lot of people are hiding,” Sibanda said. “It’s scarier than the Mugabe times.”

There was no independent confirmation of the allegation. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said he wants to work with the opposition to rebuild the country after decades of repression under his former mentor, Robert Mugabe.

Sibanda said he was concerned that the government could try to implicate opposition supporters in the deaths of six people who were killed during the military crackdown in Harare. Soldiers opened fire on protesters, some of whom were rioting.

One of those killed was Sylvia Maphosa, a vendor. Hundreds of mourners gathered at her home on Saturday as relatives wept. The government paid for her funeral, according to her family and friends. Many mourners declined to talk to journalists.

As riot police circulated in the capital, supporters of opposition leader Nelson Chamisa urged him to keep fighting a day after he forcefully rejected Mnangagwa’s election victory and alleged manipulation. Zimbabwe’s electoral commission has said the president won with 50.8 percent of the vote while Chamisa received 44.3 percent.

Chamisa has said the opposition’s own count shows he won the vote and that they would challenge the election results in court. “We’re doing all to secure your vote & defend your WILL,” he said Saturday on Twitter.

“What we want Mr. Nelson Chamisa to do for us is to not give up on our vote,” said one supporter in the capital, Tisi Habis. “No matter what the (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) says, Mr. Chamisa is our president.”

International election observers who were invited by Mnangagwa’s government after years of being banned by Mugabe were pulling out after issuing mixed reports on Monday’s vote.

While the election itself was called peaceful, the observers expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the voters’ roll and the “extreme bias” of state-run media in favor of Mnangagwa. And in a joint statement the observers criticized the military’s “excessive” use of force.

A credible election is a crucial step for lifting international sanctions and attracting badly needed foreign investment in Zimbabwe’s long-collapsed economy.

Mnangagwa on Friday claimed the vote had been free and fair, praising the “unprecedented flowering of freedom and democracy in our beloved homeland” while saying he wanted an independent investigation into the deadly unrest.

Britain’s minister for Africa on Saturday said the government was “deeply concerned by the violence following the elections and the disproportionate response from the security forces.”

The U.S. State Department late Friday encouraged the release of fully transparent election results and said anyone with grievances should pursue them through legal channels, adding that “we encourage all political leaders to show magnanimity in victory and graciousness in defeat.”

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