ZIMBABWE’S ruling party has said to the opposition that “we should all lose graciously” as presidential election results are set to be announced.

Zanu-PF spokesman Paul Mangwana said opposition supporters were responsible for Wednesday’s deadly violence in the capital Harare in which the military swept in with gunfire to disperse protests over alleged rigging in Monday’s vote.

He said that “it is not entirely true protesters were not armed”.

He also urged supporters of the ruling party to “celebrate our victory with restraint”.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his government was in touch with main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa in an attempt to ease tensions, hours after he accused the opposition of inciting it.

But Chamisa said he had not received any communication from the president and criticised the “violent government”.

He spoke during a visit to a Harare hospital where some of the injured and three of the dead were taken after Wednesday’s violence. Police have since said that a total of six people died in the clashes.

“We have unarmed civilians being attacked,” Chamisa said. “Is that normal even in a banana republic?”

Chamisa called for calm and again said he is “very confident we are forming the next government”.

Britain’s ambassador to Zimbabwe has met government ministers and “made clear that the military should be removed from the streets of Harare”.

An embassy statement also condemned the “excessive use of force by the security forces towards demonstrators” in the capital.

The statement welcomes Mnangagwa’s comments announcing an independent investigation into the violence and says all political leaders have a responsibility to avoid raising tensions or inciting violence.

International election observers urged Zimbabwe to release results of the presidential vote as soon as possible to reduce the tensions, saying delays will increase speculation that results were manipulated.

By law the electoral commission has five days from the vote to release them, but both observers and the opposition have asked why presidential results were counted first but are being released last.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Mnangagwa said “we have been in communication” with Chamisa and that “we must maintain this dialogue in order to protect the peace we hold dear”.

The conciliatory remarks came a day after soldiers shot live rounds and beat demonstrators, many of whom threw rocks and set fires to protest against alleged election fraud. 

Troops were also stationed outside the opposition Movement for Democratic Change’s party headquarters.

Wednesday’s violence erupted after the electoral commission said the ruling Zanu-PF party won a majority in parliament. The commission has said the vote was free and fair.

A credible vote is crucial to the lifting of international sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe so that its collapsed economy can recover. Elections during Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule were marked by violence and alleged fraud.

Human rights activists and some international observers criticised the military for opening fire on unarmed civilians in what they said was a disproportionate reaction to the protests and rioting.

Soldiers fired “randomly” and beat up bystanders who were not involved in the protests, said the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.

“Yesterday’s events leave ordinary citizens with serious doubts that this government is any different from its predecessor, if not worse,” the forum said, referring Mugabe’s reign.