‘It was not my time,’ says ED as he points to his ‘usual en­e­mies’

Sunday Times - - News | Politics - By MZILIKAZI wa AFRIKA, RAY NDLOVU and JAMES THOMP­SON

● Zim­bab­wean Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa said “it was not my time” af­ter he nar­rowly es­caped an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt yes­ter­day in an ex­plo­sion at White City Sta­dium in Bulawayo, where he had just fin­ished ad­dress­ing thou­sands of party sup­port­ers at a rally in the coun­try’s sec­ond-largest city.

Mnan­gagwa said he be­lieved it was not Bulawayo res­i­dents who were be­hind the at­tempt on his life, as he had re­ceived a re­sound­ing wel­come in the city.

“It ex­ploded a few inches away from me, but it is not my time. Those who are try­ing are likely to go be­fore me. It’s my usual en­e­mies . . . peo­ple out­side of Bulawayo. They tried poi­son­ing me in Au­gust last year, send­ing cyanide to my of­fice — all these things I have sur­vived,” he said.

Unconfirmed spec­u­la­tion was that at least two peo­ple — be­lieved to be Mnan­gagwa’s aides — died in the blast. Vice-Pres­i­dent Kembo Mo­hadi, who sus­tained a leg in­jury, Vice-Pres­i­dent Con­stantino Chi­wenga’s wife, Mary, Zanu-PF chair­woman Op­pah Muchin­guri, deputy speaker of par­lia­ment Ma­bel Chi­mona and me­dia crew who were near the VIP tent, are among the in­jured.

Mary and other VIPs were ad­mit­ted to Mater Dei Hospi­tal. A source at Mpilo Gen­eral Hospi­tal said 25 peo­ple, out of which two were crit­i­cal, with most suf­fer­ing limb losses, were treated at the hospi­tal.

Mnan­gagwa, ac­com­pa­nied by his deputy Chi­wenga, was seen vis­it­ing some of the in­jured at the hospi­tal.

The in­ci­dent has marred the cam­paign ahead of Zim­babwe’s July 30 na­tional poll, which Mnan­gagwa, 75, has stressed must be free of vi­o­lence.

“The cam­paign . . . has been peace­ful, it’s been free . . . and demo­cratic . . .”

A source said a de­vice could have “been det­o­nated us­ing a mo­bile phone” and was meant to have gone off when Mnan­gagwa was get­ting off the podium.

A fam­ily mem­ber who spoke to Sun­day Times said: “The most im­por­tant thing is that my fa­ther is alive and it is re­gret­table that there were peo­ple in­jured and also two aides were se­ri­ously in­jured.”

Mnan­gagwa has been the vic­tim of sev­eral as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts over the past few years, the most re­cent of which was his poi­son­ing at a rally in Gwanda. This was at the height of the fac­tional fights be­tween the Gen­er­a­tion 40 and La­coste fac­tions in ZanuPF, with each angling to take over from for­mer pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe.

“I think it [the ex­plo­sion] was targeted at the VIPs, I have never seen any­thing like this and it’s bad for lo­cal politics be­cause this is the sin­gle most bru­tal vi­o­lence as yet,” said a Zanu-PF politi­cian who spoke to the Sun­day Times on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Soon af­ter Mu­gabe ap­pointed Mnan­gagwa Zim­babwe’s vice-pres­i­dent in 2014, foren­sic ex­perts in­ves­ti­gat­ing a break-in at Mnan­gagwa’s of­fice found cyanide. He also sur­vived a mys­te­ri­ous car ac­ci­dent.

The lat­est at­tempt on his life is cer­tain to stoke po­lit­i­cal ten­sions.

Op­po­si­tion lead­ers con­demned the blast and urged a re­frain from vi­o­lence.

Nel­son Chamisa, widely seen as Mnan­gagwa’s most for­mi­da­ble po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent, said the ex­plo­sion was “ter­ri­ble” and “vi­o­lence must have no place in our politics”.

Pas­tor Evan Mawarire, who came to promi­nence dur­ing his #ThisFlag protest and is an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date for Harare’s city coun­cil, said the in­ci­dent was a wound.

Pic­ture: Reuters

Lo­cals walk past the White City Sta­dium where Zim­bab­wean Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa es­caped un­hurt af­ter an ex­plo­sion rocked the sta­dium, in Bulawayo, Zim­babwe.

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