In the opposition stronghold of Bulawayo, Zimbabwes second city, the election results were greeted with resignation rather than protests despite allegations that the ruling party had won by fraud.

"It will be the same as last time," said barman Tendai as the results were broadcast on television, referring to 2013 when Robert Mugabe won the last of his fraud-tainted polls.

In Bulawayo at least, opposition MDC party leader Nelson Chamisa easily beat Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling ZANU-PF party in Monday's momentous presidential election, winning with more than twice as many votes.

But Mnangagwa won six of the 10 provinces and snatched a first-round victory by gaining just over half of the national vote.

Opposition protests in the capital Harare against alleged fraud were crushed on Wednesday by soldiers who opened fire in violence that left six people dead.

But Bulawayo has seen no demonstrations, despite its deep well of support for the MDC, which insists that it won the election and that Chamisa had the presidency stolen from him.

"There's been no protests in Bulawayo because people here keep themselves to themselves," said Tanako, a hotel porter in the city.

"They wake up and go to work -- there's been nothing like the violence in Harare."

Bulawayo was once the industrial heartland of Zimbabwe before economic collapse under Mugabe, whose brutal security forces targeted opponents and crushed any sign of dissent during his 37-year reign.

'It has all gone'

Investors fled Zimbabwe due to land seizures, hyperinflation, corruption and indigenisation laws that forced foreign firms to cede majority stakes to locals.

"The industrial areas are closed for now because of economic hardships. Companies closed," said Jonah, a driver, as he sat beside a large textiles factory now used as a church.

"It was a very vibrant industrial area but it's all gone now. It's like they feel they are deserted.

"I don't know whether the economy is ever going to improve. People have got doubts. The potential is hidden.

"We were actually afraid during the election period that violence might come. But here there was nothing."

Nearby on the city's Herbert Chitepo street, ruling ZANU-PF election posters were pasted to storefronts, but few MDC posters were visible -- a sign perhaps of the party's chronic shortage of funds.

Here in the southwestern region, much of the opposition to ZANU-PF is due to the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s that claimed the lives of around 20,000 regime opponents.

The new president, who was in government at the time, has been accused of involvement in the intelligence operation behind the deaths.

Today, it is nearly 20 years of severe economic decline that dominates minds during elections.

Lovemore, one of three employees at the city's Norymet shoe workshop, said that the business could prosper under the right conditions.

"We make only 10 pairs a day but with investment we could make 600," said Lovemore, sitting in a dark backroom, surrounded by leather swatches and half-finished shoes.