Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa calls for calm amid violent post-election clashes

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called for calm after intense violence between protesters and military troops left at least three people dead.

The president said he has opened lines of communication with MDC opposition leader Nelson Chamisa to discuss how to "immediately diffuse the situation" and "protect the peace we hold dear".

In a series of tweets, he added that an independent investigation into the deadly clashes in Harare that led to troops firing live rounds and beating protesters would be launched.

Violence broke out in the Zimbabwean capital after soldiers moved into Harare on Wednesday as protests escalated amid allegations of electoral manipulation and anger at election result delays.

Zimbabwe's electoral commission has said presidential election results will be announced at 9pm local time.

Zimbabwe's military will remain on the streets of Harare until the violence subsides, authorities have said.

Soldiers are telling vendors, locals and bystanders to leave the city centre by noon.

The incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa urged political leaders to advocate for peace on Wednesday "as this day that ended in tragedy comes to a close".

Reporting from the Zimbabwean capital, ITV News's John Ray said that water canons and riot police are protecting opposition party MDC's headquarters as anxiety hangs in the air over what may happen next.

The government has blamed the opposition for the protesters who threw rocks and set fires after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said the ruling ZANU-PF party had won a parliamentary majority in the election Monday.

The opposition believes it was cheated of victory by a commission allegedly biased toward the government.

The electoral commission insists the vote, which was the first since the fall of long-time leader Robert Mugabe, was credible.

Opposition protesters burned tyres on the streets of Harare. Credit: AP

Mr Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe from 1980 until 2017 when he resigned following a coup.

He was then replaced by his vice president Mr Mnangagwa.

Mr Mnangagwa's main rival in the election was opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor who heads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Opposition supporters had gathered outside the compound of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and burned tyres and at least two vehicles before they were met by riot police who fired guns, tear gas and water canons.

Other protesters demonstrated outside the Zanu-PF - the country's ruling party - headquarters.

As dusk fell in the country on Wednesday, an uneasy silence descended on Harare after armed forces succeeded in breaking up protests.

Election observers from the European Union and United States warned that presidential results should be released as soon as possible to avoid “volatility”, and questioned why presidential votes were counted first but were being announced last.

"The longer it [the delay in announcing the results of the presidential race], the more the issue of lack of credibility arises," EU observer Elmar Brok said.

The EU mission also expressed “serious concerns” over whether the vote, while peaceful, was free and fair – crucial for lifting international sanctions on the once-prosperous country.

Tanks patrol the streets of the capital. Credit: AP

It conceded that “a truly level playing field was not achieved” in the election, pointing out the “misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media”.

Zimbabwe’s electoral commission (ZEC) said agents for all 23 candidates have to verify the results before they can be announced on Thursday evening, but that ruling Zanu-PF party had won a majority of seats in parliament.

Police block opposition party supporters from entering the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission offices Credit: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

The opposition has alleged irregularities, saying voting results were not posted outside one-fifth of polling stations as required by law.

Mr Mnangagwa’s government has accused Mr Chamisa and his supporters of inciting “violence” by already declaring the opposition leader had won.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party chief claimed victory based on results supporters said they collected from agents in the field.

Meanwhile Mr Mnangagwa said his showing in the elections was "extremely positive" and has urged people to wait for official results.

“Let me also warn such individuals and groups that no-one is above the law,” Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu said.

The violence has appeared to dash the hopes of Zimbabweans that what had been a peaceful vote would lift them out of decades of economic and political stagnation under Mr Mugabe.

Armed police have been deployed to the streets of the capital. Credit: AP