QUESTIONS abound over the weekend explosion that rocked a Zanu PF rally at White City Stadium in Bulawayo. For starters, the Zimbabwean police seem clueless about both the cause of the explosion and the culprits behind it.
By Lulu Brenda Harris
The offer of an undisclosed reward to aid their investigation reveals more about the police than they are openly revealing. That they are nowhere near a nose shot of any scent and offering a “substantial” reward to anyone who comes forward with information on the explosion is sheer desperation to try search for clues.
The explosion (which some suggest was caused by a grenade, after looking at the footage,) struck after President Emmerson Mnangagwa had addressed the rally and was leaving the stage with other members of the presidium.
Apportioning the investigation duty to the public and offering a reward probably means the police also lack clues as to the motives behind the explosion, who is or are behind it and the intended targets, although speculation is high that the attack was an assassination attempt on the President’s life. At this stage, police said they are carrying out “comprehensive” investigations with expert teams “firmly” on the ground to determine exactly what happened. Take note, on the local scene, the Zimbabwean police usually rank among the best in terms of arresting suspects — except if those suspects are Zanu PF members against the opposition, or are political untouchables. Could this be the case here too?
If authorities are clueless about the explosion, it may imply the culprits are likely to get away with the crime and this can mean one more thing — they may strike again.
Police have also appealed to the media to allow them and other security forces space to conduct investigations. The investigating teams should scour all possibilities, checking all footage concerned of the rally, assessing the environment and possibly interviewing other teams or groups of people who were close or whose proximity was next to the presidium.
The President himself, in an interview with the country’s national broadcaster soon after he was whisked to safety, confirmed this attack would not stop him as already there have been multiple attempts on his life over the years and this current explosion was now the sixth.
This raises questions as to who is after Mngangwa, if he was the target, and why plan this attack on the eve of the elections as the country readies for its polls come July 30. Some suggested the attack was a tactic to declare a state of emergency and postpone elections, but the President assured Zimbabweans that the polls will go ahead as planned, nothing will stop the electoral process. This recent attack has been condemned by both regional parties and international bodies who also expressed solidarity with the government. The other time a bomb occurred before an election in Zimbabwe was in 1980, targeting former President Robert Mugabe and bombs planted by apartheid spies in 1990s. Other bombs that exploded in Zimbabwe were targeted at the media was in 2001 when the Daily News printing premises was bombed and in 2002 when Radio VOP was also bombed.
This explosion at White City Stadium creates more questions as in whose interests are it to create uncertainty during this time. If the explosion was to deter elections, the question is who is the most worried about these elections? If this explosion came about as part of Zanu PF internal fighting, which should have ended after the coup in November last year — who then is or are the culprits?
This explosion further adds more suspicion in the country’s electoral process, which already had suspicion that it would not be fair due to concerns raised on the national voters’ roll that has not been easily availed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
Others claim the explosion was a diversion tactic caused by the ruling party itself to divert attention away from the voters’ rolls and Zec, concerns which the opposition has been hammering about of late.
Questions around the President’s security team have also been raised — did the security do a thorough check before the rally, did they carefully screen the stadium for any anomalies and were sniffer dogs used to sniff out anything suspicious?
Others have questioned why the President who survived the alleged assassination plot soon went around in public, going to hospitals seeing the injured and giving an interview to the national broadcaster when he should have been secured until investigations were sure there would be no further attempt on his life that same day.
Concerns on the security’s strengths were dispelled by Zimbabwe presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, who in an interview with South African media, said such events could take place even though security was tight. He pointed out that security could not be faulted as much, as explosions have also taken place in global stages were security would be of the highest factor.
Charamba also mentioned Ethiopia as a recent example, which experienced an attack at a rally addressed by the country’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, earlier in the same day an explosion rattled the Zanu PF rally.
Due to security concerns, political parties will now be cautious as to who they can invite to their rallies and in the same manner people would also be hesitant to attend fearing for their safety. Usually it is up to political parties to provide own security at their rallies, even though they inform the police about their event.
Since the current government rose to power after disposing former President Mugabe in a coup, some believe such acts cannot be ruled out as either disgruntled members loyal to the previous regime or other aggrieved parties can mete out the same style of violence, which should and could be expected.
After the incident, Professor Jonathan Moyo who was said to be the brains behind the ousted G40 group aligned to Mugabe tweeted, “Today’s explosion at White City Stadium in Bulawayo is a tragic reminder that the use of tanks, bombs, grenades and guns by whosoever against anyone to settle a political contest is barbaric. November 15, 2017 set a dangerous paradigm for politics in Zimbabwe. Violence begets violence. Sad!”
Nevertheless this discussion of violence in Zimbabwean politics should look at the entrenched history of violence that has taken place between political parties and has left many dead, thousands injured or displaced. Focus on violence should not only be on this recent explosion at White City Stadium in Bulawayo.
Following the attack, the government said it is considering providing security to all those presidential aspirants who may need it, of which some are skeptical about this gesture because Zimbabwe’s security services have become highly politicised and as such may be infiltrated.
Lulu Brenda Harris writes in her personal capacity