Soldiers and police Tuesday clashed with protesters in several suburbs of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, as the opposition pressed on with an indefinite general strike to force the release of results of a presidential vote held more than two weeks ago.
Youths, suspected to be supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), barricaded roads and barred commuter buses from picking up workers in several suburbs of the capital, prompting army and police intervention.
Several buses were burnt and gunshots were heard in some of the suburbs, but there were no reports of deaths or injuries.
The MDC called for the strike to pressure authorities to release results of the 29 March presidential vote, which have been withheld by election officials pending the outcome of investigations of suspected fraud.
The party, which claims its candidate Morgan Tsvangirai beat incumbent Robert Mugabe in the poll, Monday lost a court bid to have the results announced.
Youths barricaded roads with stones and other objects, and ordered buses to stop ferrying people to work.
They also stoned cars suspected to be carrying people to work, prompting the army and police crackdown.
Air force helicopters were deployed in some areas to monitor the situation.
But in the city centre itself, the situation was calm with banks and offices open for business.
Some shops and retail outlets were, however, closed.
Tuesday’s clashes were the first incidents of election-related violence, raising fears Zimbabwe could now descend into Kenya-style, post-election anarchy over the disputed poll.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has refused to release the results of the presidential poll, saying it was still counting and verifying ballots, more than two weeks after voting ended.
On Monday, it won court backing after High Court judge Tendai Uchena dismissed the MDC’s petition for the release of the results.
Meanwhile, the ZEC has ordered a recount of votes in 23 constituencies, against MDC protests, saying vote fraud was suspected in the areas.