Monday’s presidential election in Zimbabwe — the country’s first since former President Robert Mugabe stepped down after 37 years of rule — has sparked protests and violence as supporters of the losing opposition party have taken to the streets claiming that the election was a sham and the results were rigged.
Now it seems the ruling party, which won the election, is trying to silence them.
On Friday, Zimbabwean riot police armed with batons and shields chased away a crowd of journalists waiting for a press conference held by Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party. Chamisa officially lost the presidential race to current President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday night.
Witnesses at the scene heard police shouting, “Out, out,” and banging their riot sticks on their shields as they tried to disperse the journalists. “They could not, however, provide a reason that anyone should do so, and left after a standoff,” the Independent reports. “They were followed down the road by the media, the encounter recorded on cameras from around the world.”
Mnangagwa swiftly condemned the incident, stating that such attempts to suppress free speech “have no place in our society” and that “anyone is free to address the media at any time.”
The scenes today at the Bronte Hotel have no place in our society and we are urgently investigating the matter to understand exactly what happened. Over the past nine months we have protected freedom of speech, of assembly and the right to criticise the government. (1/2)— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) August 3, 2018
This is an indispensable part of the new Zimbabwe. It is non-negotiable and will not change.— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) August 3, 2018
We won the election freely and fairly, and have nothing to hide or fear. Anyone is free to address the media at any time (2/2)
But this incident is just the latest in a series of attempts by the ruling ZANU-PF party to quash the opposition and its supporters.
Since Monday’s mostly peaceful election, clashes between the military and opposition protesters have been bloody — a demonstration on Wednesday left six dead and 14 injured after armed soldiers were deployed to shut it down. And on Thursday, local police raided the MDC party’s headquarters and accused Chamisa of inciting violence.
Yet Chamisa and his supporters seem undeterred. He told reporters later at a press conference, “We are going to explore all necessary means, legal and constitutional, to ensure that the will of the people is protected.”