As It Happens

Zimbabwean musician describes seeing a body in the street amid chaotic election protests

Zimbabwe musician Willis Wataffi says he still has hope for his country even after he saw soldiers opening fire on unarmed protesters in the streets.

'Everything's not fine, because clearly there's this unrest and people have been shot,' says Willis Wataffi

Protesters burn an election banner with the face of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)
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Zimbabwe musician Willis Wataffi says he still has hope for his country even after he saw soldiers opening fire on unarmed protesters in the streets. 

"African young people are dreamers," Wataffi told As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay. "We go out there, we visit other countries, see things that are happening. We want the same things for our children."

At least one person was killed in Zimbabwe's capital Harare on Wednesday as soldiers opened fire to disperse stone-throwing opposition supporters who accused the ruling party of trying to rig Monday's presidential election, witnesses said.

The official election results showed victory in parliament for the ruling ZANU-PF party. But results of the presidential race — between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa — have not yet been announced.

This is Zimbabwe's first election since Robert Mugabe was ousted in a defacto coup in November.

Wataffi spoke to Chattopadhyay on Wednesday about what's happening in the streets of Harare. Here is part of their conversation.

​Just how tense is the mood in Harare tonight?

We're having a lot of disturbances here and obviously people are getting killed. 

There's like maximum force being used toward civilians who are unarmed, and they're being shot for having other views about the outcome of the election announcement.

For myself, I can't fathom or understand why the armed forces would actually go in shooting the opposition for protesting against an election outcome, you know?

Soldiers open fire to disperse crowds of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change supporters outside the party's headquarters in Harare on Wednesday. (Mike Hutchings/Reuters)

You are safe at home now, but earlier you were out at the protest. What did you see? What did you hear?

Everyone was on the streets and there was at first what seemed like a peaceful demonstration. 

I wasn't out there protesting; I was there working because I work from a studio ... right in the middle of the city.

This is where it was happening. This was where gas shots started happening and tear gas and everything else, and everybody just started running and there was a stampede.

So as you were making your way back from your music studio in downtown Harare to home, you saw all these protests.

I just went straight to my car and I wanted to just get out of town.

I've been in this kind of demonstration before and I've been one of those who have been tear-gassed before, so I know exactly what happens when especially the armed forces come against civilians.

So I obviously had to run for safety.

And as I was passing by a place called 4th Street, that's where I actually noticed a dead body on the streets. 

Do you have any idea how that person was killed?

Gunshots, obviously.

Willis Wataffi is a musician in Zimbabwe who says he will not accept a presidential election victory for the ruling ZANU-PF party. (Submitted by Willis Wataffi )

What is behind the anger that we're seeing on the streets today?

The election results. People are displeased by so much red tape and bureaucracy and how unfair this whole election is going.

We are tired. We're tired of this system. We're tired of this government. We're tired of people that just come to take just to put in their own pocket, just to fatten their own pocket.

This generation is tired of that and it's clear in our vote and in our voice.

And yet we have observers come in to say. "Everything was fine. The election was free and fair, and there was no violence."

Who are these observers? Who are they? Are they coming really to look after us? Do they have our interest at heart?

Because if they have our interest at heart, they should be talking to the people. They should be seeing the mood. They should be seen what is happening on the streets.

Everything's not fine, because clearly there's this unrest and people have been shot. People are dead on the streets.

Supporters of Nelson Chamisa demonstrate as they await results of general elections in Zimbabwe. (Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters)

If President Emmerson Mnangagwa comes out as victorious and we see the ruling party Zanu PF majority rule, will you accept that result?

I won't accept it.

When you say you won't accept it, what do you plan on doing?

I'm going to do what I do every day. I sing about it.

People are listening, and people are hearing and that's what I do. My music is protest music.

Given what you've been saying, what hope do you have left for Zimbabwe?

There's hope. This is my birthright. This is where I was born. I'm not going to leave this place. I'm going to stay.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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