As Zimbabweans waited on tenterhooks to learn the victor of the country's presidential election, a deadly crackdown on opposition protesters in the capital spurred fears of a return to the days of authoritarian rule under Robert Mugabe.
Demonstrators took to the streets, angry that the victor of Monday's vote still hadn't been announced and convinced that the vote has been rigged to benefit incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.
The ruling party, Zanu-PF, says it is ready to peacefully concede defeat in the event that it loses the presidential elections, whose results are expected soon.
Earlier, the opposition MDC Alliance said that vote had been rigged and that its candidate Nelson Chamisa had won.
Twenty-three candidates - all first-time contenders - contested for the presidency.
Zanu-PF's Secretary for Legal Affairs, Paul Mangwana, told reporters in Harare that should his party lose, they will walk away and re-strategize for the next election. Also in attendance were Commissioners from the National Electoral Commission of Zimbabwe, Heads and representatives of Diplomatic Missions in Harare, representatives of political parties, faith-based groups, members of the public, members of civil society, and the media fraternity.
Zanu-PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa called for calm in the wake of the protests and said he had reached out to Chamisa so the two could work together.
"You said you were better than Mugabe you are the picture of Mugabe", shouted one young male protester wearing a white T-shirt.
Police said the death toll had risen to six after people were shot dead during demonstrations against alleged electoral fraud on Wednesday, leading troops to clear the centre of the capital today.More news: GAME OF THRONES' Final Season Premiere Date (Kind Of) Revealed
The much-criticised election authority meanwhile declares there has been no rigging, after the opposition repeatedly alleges the vote process was flawed.
Commonwealth observers also on Thursday accused the Zimbabwe security forces of using excessive force on protesters.
The commission, which must announce the presidential results by Saturday, has said the vote was free and fair.
Mr Mnangagwa ordered an "independent investigation" into the...
But the mood quickly descended into anger and chaos as supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition declared they were being cheated in the election count.
This photo taken on January 7, 2017 shows Zimbabwe's then acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa speaking during a funeral ceremony in Harare.
The military deployment was the first time that soldiers had appeared in the streets of the capital since Mugabe's departure in November.
This invitation of formerly banned election observer missions had, according to Augusto, demonstrated "transparency and confidence building in Zimbabwe's electoral process". "They may be the ones that can pressure for some kind of accountability and what really happened here", Cooke said.
The European Union said the elections were competitive and freedoms were respected, but that there was a lack of a "truly level playing field".