Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa said he had been talking to opposition leader Nelson Chamisa to try to defuse tension over the election. Picture: Xinhua/Shaun Jusa
Harare - Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Thursday he had been talking to opposition leader Nelson Chamisa to try to defuse tension over this week's presidential election after violent clashes on the streets of Harare.

Writing on Twitter, Mnangagwa also called for an independent investigation into the violence, in which three people were killed after soldiers were deployed to the streets of the capital. 

 Zimbabwe police said three people were killed in Harare on Wednesday as soldiers dispersed stone-throwing opposition supporters who accused the ruling party of trying to rig Monday's presidential election.

The deployment of soldiers and their beating of unarmed protesters set back President Emmerson Mnangagwa's efforts to shed Zimbabwe's pariah status after decades of repression under Robert Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in November.

Even before the violence, European Union observers questioned the conduct of the presidential and parliamentary vote, the first since Mugabe's forced resignation after nearly 40 years in charge of the southern African nation.

Zimbabwe's electoral commission had said it would start announcing results for the presidential race from 10.30 GMT on Wednesday but that was then pushed back at least 24 hours. EU monitors said the delay was undermining the vote's credibility.

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba told state broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) that the three people killed in the clashes had yet to be identified.

Gunfire crackled as troops, backed by armoured vehicles and a military helicopter and some with their faces masked, cleared the streets of opposition protesters.

The unrest started soon after Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), declared that he had won the popular vote.

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Reuters