Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa says he has opened talks with opposition leader Nelson Chamisa to diffuse a standoff triggered by delays in the releasing election results a day after soldiers shot dead three protesters.
Scores of people also suffered gunshot wounds on Wednesday after the army opened fire on opposition supporters protesting against alleged electoral fraud.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has denied the accusations of rigging saying the July 30 presidential election results had been delayed by a verification process.
Both President Mnangagwa, 75, and Mr Chamisa, 40, claim victory in the elections although the ruling Zanu PF has won a majority seats in parliament indicating that the incumbent could be leading in the polls.
The streets of the capital Harare remained deserted on Thursday with heavy security presence.
Both the Zanu PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) headquarters were heavily guarded by security forces.
After issuing a hard hitting statement threatening to clampdown on any protests, Mr Mnangagwa took to Twitter calling for peace and dialogue.
“We have been in communication with Nelson Chamisa to discuss how to immediately diffuse the situation and we must maintain this dialogue in order to protect the peace we hold dear,” he said.
Mr Mnangagwa, who succeeded former president Robert Mugabe after a military takeover in November last year, extended his condolences to the families of the victims of the bloody protest and called for an independent investigation into the killings.
“We believe in transparency and accountability, and those responsible should be identified and brought to justice,” he said.
The government accuses Mr Chamisa and MDC leaders for the violence saying they must be held accountable.
Prior to the July 30 presidential, parliamentary and local government elections President Mnangagwa had promised to usher in democracy in Zimbabwe but Wednesday’s violent clampdown on protestors has dampened hopes of a new era for the country.
The opposition accuses ZEC of manipulating the elections to favour Mr Mnangagwa, a long-time ally of Mr Mugabe.
While African observer missions said the elections were free and fair, the European Union and the United States said the polls did not pass the credibility test because of an un-level playing field and lack of trust.