Zimbabwe opposition leader votes to cheers

Piercing whistles and cheers have greeted Zimbabwe opposition leader Nelson Chamisa as he votes in the country's historic election.

Crowds are swarming the 40-year-old lawyer and pastor at a polling station just outside Harare.

Chamisa is challenging the 75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Zimbabwe's first election without Robert Mugabe on the ballot. The contest could bring international legitimacy and investment or signal more stagnation if the vote is seriously flawed.

One of Zimbabwe's voters is the brother of Itai Dzamara, an activist abducted by suspected state agents in 2015 after urging longtime ruler Robert Mugabe to resign at a time when most Zimbabweans dared not do so.

Patson Dzamara says on Twitter that change is coming and he thanks his brother for "blazing a trail for me and others" with his brazen and sometimes solitary protests. "My brother Itai Dzamara, this is for you. I did it for you."

The missing activist's family and supporters have called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe enforcer, to explain what happened to Dzamara after he was bundled into a car by five unidentified men.

Mnangagwa, who took over after Mugabe resigned in November, has not responded. Mugabe on Sunday called Dzamara "that character" and claimed not to know about his fate.

Patson Dzamara says he supports Nelson Chamisa, the main opposition leader.

(File:AFP)

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