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Can Mnangagwa bring Zimbabwe together after election unrest?

Election officials in Zimbabwe announced Thursday that current President Emmerson Mnangagwa won the election over Nelson Chamisa. Across the past few days, both sides have been claiming victory, blaming each other for violence and bracing for more. On Wednesday, soldiers opened fire on crowds in Harare, killing at least six. William Brangham talks with Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Election officials in Zimbabwe announced that current President Emmerson Mnangagwa has taken a strong lead in the presidential election.

    Earlier tonight, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission requested a break of one hour before announcing the final results.

    As William Brangham reports, this election and the process by which the votes have been counted have sparked protests and violence.

  • William Brangham:

    Even before officials began announcing election results, both sides were claiming victory in the presidential race, and both sides were bracing for more violence.

  • John Mbaga:

    People are in fear too much about what happened yesterday, because what the army did, I think it's bad.

    (GUNFIRE)

  • William Brangham:

    Soldiers opened fire yesterday on crowds in the streets of Harare, the capital, killing at least six people.

    They were protesting the official announcement that the longtime ruling party, known as ZANU-PF, had won a majority in Parliament. Supporters of the movement for democratic change chanted, burned tires and hurled rocks. They claimed ZANU-PF was trying to steal victory.

  • Man:

    They tried to forge it. They tried to do their own things. So the people, they have come to fight for their rights.

  • William Brangham:

    Police first fired tear gas and water cannons. Then, the army appeared on the streets for the first time since longtime President Robert Mugabe, who was forced to resign last November.

    Some of the troops fired live rounds directly into protesters and bystanders.

  • Man:

    He's holding a gun, pointing a gun to a civilian. I have got nothing. How can I fight you?

  • William Brangham:

    Foreign election observers condemned the government's response to the protests.

  • John Dramani Mahama:

    Well, When unarmed civilians are doing a manifestation or protesting, live ammunition shouldn't be used in circumstances like that.

  • William Brangham:

    Each side blamed the other for the violence, Mugabe's former right-hand man, 75-year-old incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and his main challenger, 40-year-old lawyer Nelson Chamisa.

    Known as the Crocodile, Mnangagwa has been accused of organizing attacks on the opposition during the 2008 presidential election. On Twitter today, the president offered sincere condolences to the victims and called for an independent investigation.

    He also said he reached out to Chamisa to defuse the situation. But Chamisa, on his way to visit the wounded in a hospital, said he's had no such communication, and he insisted the fault for the violence lies squarely with the government.

  • Nelson Chamisa:

    You have an unarmed civilian who is attacked by live ammunition. Is that normal? Even in banana republics, is that normal?

  • William Brangham:

    Later, he likened Mnangagwa's rule to Mugabe's brutal years in power.

  • Nelson Chamisa:

    What it confirms is that the leopard doesn't change its skin.

  • William Brangham:

    By this morning, soldiers and police patrolled the streets of the capital among the shuttered stores, and warned people to stay away. Police also sealed off Chamisa's headquarters. His supporters warned they will not be repressed again. One said, "We are tired of these people. They have to go."

    Just a few seconds ago, Zimbabwe election officials announced that Emmerson Mnangagwa has won the election.

    So what do these results mean for Zimbabwe?

    Peter Pham runs the Africa Center for the Atlantic Council here in Washington.

    Welcome back to the "NewsHour."

  • J. Peter Pham:

    Pleasure to be with you.

  • William Brangham:

    What's your reaction to these results?

  • J. Peter Pham:

    Well, I regret to say that they have been tainted by the events, the tragic events of the last 24 hours, the shooting of the unarmed civilians, including, ironically, even the aunt of one of the ministers in Present Mnangagwa's cabinet was one of those who lost their lives.

    That casts a shadow over these results. And it's a shame, because this has been probably, arguably, the best election Zimbabwe has had in almost 20 years. So, it's sad, but we now have the results. And the key thing is to learn the lessons and move onward from here.

  • William Brangham:

    So, your sense is that the claims of the opposition party that there was some rigging going on in the last few days, they were somehow ginning up totals to make sure that the president was reelected, you don't think there's any evidence that really went on; you think this was fair?

  • J. Peter Pham:

    Well, I think, if there's evidence, I would like to see it.

    And, certainly, it wasn't a level playing field, by any stretch of the imagination. Media coverage was almost exclusively given to the incoming president, very little to the challengers.

    We also have questions about perhaps the voter rolls being manipulated, ghost voters being there. So there's some serious questions that need to be answered. And, certainly, the election commission didn't cover itself in glory with its delays in publishing results, which heightened suspicion.

    On the other hand, the opposition didn't help itself either. It was divided. In some places, they even ran two candidates against each other and handed seats that they should have won in Bulawayo, for example.

  • William Brangham:

    By splitting the vote.

  • J. Peter Pham:

    Splitting the vote with two candidates of their own party, not counting other opposition candidates. So that didn't help matters much. And so that's something that the opposition needs to address as well.

    And then certainly some of the claims that Nelson Chamisa made during the course of the election, some are risible. Others are — in the last 24 hours, calling people out in the streets and proclaiming himself the winner before the results are announced, that heightens the tensions.

  • William Brangham:

    So, is it your sense that the country now comes together, agrees that this was fair, and that the president is the president?

  • J. Peter Pham:

    What the country needs now and what the international community needs to encourage is statesmanlike behavior, both on the part of the president, on the part of those who have challenged him, and on the part of the election commission to be transparent, to put everything out there and let people decide in a calm, tranquil manner.

    That's the key for legitimacy. And without that legitimacy, without that, we have got dark days ahead.

  • William Brangham:

    What is your sense of — in the U.S., during elections, we talk about a mandate. Does the president have a mandate? Does it matter if he does or doesn't? And then what would that mandate be for Zimbabwe?

  • J. Peter Pham:

    Well, I think the president needs a mandate to carry out the opening, hopefully, of a new chapter in Zimbabwe's life, the first in almost four decades without Robert Mugabe.

    On the other hand, one could argue that ZANU-PF has a legislative mandate.

  • William Brangham:

    This is his party.

  • J. Peter Pham:

    This is the party — has a legislative mandate.

    Overall, more than two-thirds of the seats in Parliament were won by ZANU-PF, the incumbent ruling party. Were some contestable? I think that will remain to be seen when we see all the results parsed out.

    But it's very clear the opposition didn't help itself by splintering in the lead-up to the election.

  • William Brangham:

    Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council, thank you so much.

  • J. Peter Pham:

    Thank you.

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