Zimbabwe’s president links former first lady to explosion at rally

Emmerson Mnangagwa says Grace Mugabe ‘easily used’ by those behind fatal grenade attack

Supporters of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF party march for non-violent, fair elections, in Harare, earlier this month. File photograph: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

Supporters of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF party march for non-violent, fair elections, in Harare, earlier this month. File photograph: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

 

Members of a ruling party faction linked to Zimbabwe’s former first lady, Grace Mugabe, are suspected of causing the explosion that killed two body guards protecting the country’s president during an election rally last weekend.

Ms Mugabe has herself not been accused of involvement in the attack on Saturday at the White City stadium in Bulawayo. It appeared to target President Emmerson Mnangagwa as he walked off stage after urging voters to return his ruling Zanu-PF party to power in next month’s general election.

Mr Mnangagwa (75) was unharmed by the blast, which was caused by a grenade. However, in addition to the two fatalities, 47 members of Zanu-PF and security personnel were injured, including Zimbabwe’s two vice-presidents.

While no arrests connected to the incident have been made public to date, there appears to be a growing belief among Mr Mnangagwa and his supporters that the attempted assassination was an inside job.

Dissidents

In a television interview aired on Wednesday, Mr Mnangagwa said he believed dissidents linked to a faction in Zanu-PF called Generation 40 (G40) were behind the attack, but until arrests were made he could not be sure.

“My hunch, without evidence, is that the people who are aggrieved by the new dispensation [in Zimbabwe] are the G40; that is a logical and reasonable conclusion that one can make,” he told the BBC.

Loggerheads

The G40 faction and Mr Mnangagwa’s supporters in Zanu-PF have been at loggerheads for years over who should take over from former president Robert Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup last November.

The G40 group had backed Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace, to replace her husband as Zimbabwe’s leader before the ageing dictator was forced to resign from office by the army.

But following the military intervention on November 15th, Mr Mnangagwa, who had been Zimbabwe’s vice-president until he was fired earlier that month, was installed as the country’s new president.

Many G40 members were either arrested or forced to flee once the army took over. But some of the less outspoken individuals retained their party and government positions after pledging their loyalty to Zanu-PF’s new leadership.

‘Politically immature’

While Mr Mnangagwa did not accuse Ms Mugabe of being involved in the attack, he said she was “politically immature” and “easily used as a tool by those who wanted to get at me”. She is currently out of Zimbabwe in Singapore with her husband.

Zimbabwe’s war veterans’ association spokesman, Douglas Mahiya, has also said his group suspected the attack could have been engineered by the G40 faction members who remained in government and senior party positions.

The Zanu-PF youth has followed suit, telling reporters in Harare on Tuesday that those who were responsible were likely operating from inside the ruling party’s structures.

Saturday’s attack has raised fears that the run up to the July 30th poll will be marred by further violence that will lead to a crackdown on opposition parties’ ability to campaign freely for the first time since 2002’s presidential election.

However, Mr Mnangagwa has denied his administration will take such a hardline approach to security in the weeks ahead.