Protests over delays in reporting election results turned violent on Wednesday, leading Zimbabwe’s army to open fire on opposition supporters and at least three people dead, a state broadcaster told the Associated Press.
Heart of the capital, Harare, was the sight of the destruction. Hundred of backers of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were said to chant anti-government slogans while destroying public property such as benches, signs, stoplights and more. Protesters believe the recent election was being rigged.
“We support Chamisa and we want him to be our president,” a 19-year-old protester said of the opposition leader. “The electoral commission is not fair. Our election is being stolen.”
Police lashed back to the destruction with warning shots, water cannons and tear gas attempting to disperse the thick crowds, according to the Washington Post.
In a continual battle, protesters responded by blocking streets, throwing rocks and burning tires. Soon after, the Zimbabwe army was forced to intervene and protesters ran for cover.
The battles between protesters and the army, quickly turned the heart of the city into a war zone with military helicopters in the sky and soldiers chasing protesters down streets.
A hospital in Harare held family members who wept in the emergency room while a body lay on a stretcher. Brighton Chizhande, chairman of the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human rights, said they have confirmed one death from a gunshot wound near the heart and are following up reports of four others killed, reported the Associated Press.
Police have since invoked a strict security act, forbidding public gatherings and protests. Soldiers are stationed at intersections in the city as the sun sets.
Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa is blaming opposition supporters for the violent outbreaks. In a statement shared by state media, the president said Nelson Chamisa, a 40-year-old lawyer and pastor running for president, is responsible for the chaos “meant to disrupt the electoral process.”
However, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change, told reporters that Chamisa is “shocked” by the recent events. The opposition said it condemns violence in every form.
“We are seriously meant to wonder what this means, are we at war?”
The opposition and Western election observers are urging the Zimbabwe electoral commission to release the historic presidential election results soon, but the commission says it may be “sometime tomorrow” before the results are shown.
The election stands as an important test for Zimbabwe as the country tires to rebuild its economy and standing after almost four decades of Mugabe rule.