Call for calm after Zimbabwe blast

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A blast that rocked a ruling party campaign rally in which Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa narrowly escaped unharmed has plunged the country into uncharted waters a month before the first elections in the post-Robert Mugabe era.

But authorities yesterday ruled out delaying the polls as police said 49 rally-goers, including the country’s two vice-presidents, had been injured in the attack, some seriously.

Mnangagwa has called for calm after the blast. Footage on social media showed an explosion and plumes of smoke around the president as he walked from the podium at the White City stadium in Bulawayo.

Mnangagwa said he had been the target of the attack, which also injured vice-presidents Kembo Mohadi and Constantino Chiwenga, and which state media are describing as an assassination attempt.

“The device exploded a few inches away from me,” the president told the state broadcaster on Saturday.

“These are my mortal enemies and the attempts have been so many,” he said.

“It ’s not the first attempt on my life. I’m used to it.

“Six times my office has been broken into; cyanide was put in my offices so many times.”

Presidential spokesman George Charamba told the state-run Sunday Mail: “As for the elections being postponed, a state of emergency being declared [due to the Bulawayo attack] . . . rest assured that the electoral programme proceeds as scheduled.”

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said yesterday that comprehensive investigations were in progress.

The upcoming election will be Mnangagwa’s first at the ballot box. In a voice note he released to the state media yesterday, Mnangagwa called for unity and peace.

“In November [when Mugabe was removed] we all came together motivated by a dream, for a free, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe, a peaceful Zimbabwe,” he said, adding “now some people are trying to kill our dream”.

“While we have all chosen the path of peace, others unfortunately still cling to the tools of violence. I assure you they will not succeed,” he said. “We as a people must unite.”

Commentators suggest the attack could have been instigated by internal ructions within the ruling party.

Others point to old grievances linked to the 1982- 87 Gukurahundi crackdown, widely seen as an effort by Mugabe to vanquish his ally turned-foe, Ndebele liberation leader Joshua Nkomo.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned the blast.

Speaking also as the chairman of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Ramaphosa said acts of violence and criminality had no place in the democratic process of any sovereign state within the SADC region.

It was vital that the political and security situation in Zimbabwe remained stable in the run-up to the election.

He said the SADC would evaluate the incident and take appropriate steps.

Herald Live