By Gilbert Nyambabvu
WHEN former president Robert Mugabe gave his sole international interview on the November coup which ousted him, the veteran leader said this of his successor;
“He (Emmerson Mnangagwa) has got his own character, and it’s a character I, perhaps, did not quite see and know about him … that of not forgiving. If a person steps onto his toes, he will go after them …”
These remarks will likely return to the minds of many in the aftermath of the claimed bomb blast which rocked Mnangagwa’s campaign rally at Bulawayo’s White City Stadium on Saturday.
49 people were injured, among them vice presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi.
Mnangagwa escaped unhurt. He has described the explosion as a cowardly assassination attempt.
The incident is the second in a string of claimed attempts on his life with the last major incidents being the alleged poison attack and his dramatic escape into exile ahead of the November coup.
Hasnain Malik, Global Head of Equity Research at UK-based Exotix Capital said, following the incident, “The main uncertainties now are whether the reaction to the attack includes a crackdown on dissent and political rivals in the name of security or a delay in the election.”
After assuming power, Mnangagwa did not react as Mugabe said was his wont.
The new Zanu PF leader said he knew the people who poisoned him, adding that he had forgiven them.
After Saturday’s attack in Bulawayo, Mnangagwa suggested it was the same people, saying, “These are my mortal enemies and the attempts have been so many.
“It’s not the first attempt of my life. It does not scare me, I’m used to it. Six times my office has been broken into; cyanide was put in my offices so many times. I will continue.
“When they tried to poison me I survived, they tried poisoning me through my office, I survived. The same methods, I survived.”
But with Mugabe out of office and, apparently, distant from the instruments of State authority, what are the threats to Mnangagwa’s hold on power?
Says Malik of Exotix Capital; “Beyond the competition between Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF and Chamisa’s MDC-T in the upcoming election, there are two long standing tensions in Zimbabwe: first, within ZANU-PF, between Mnangagwa’s Lacoste faction and Mugabe’s G40 factions, with an undertone of tribal tension between Karanga and Zezuru.
“Second, there is the history of grievances held against Mnangagwa and Mugabe for the alleged genocide against former ZAPU members, who are mainly from the Ndebele tribe and from the region, Matabeleland, which includes the city of Bulawayo, where this attack occurred.
“A third emerging tension to add may be that between the Army and ZANU-PF if the party is no longer seen as the best guarantor of the Army’s privileges.”
Elections going ahead
Malik does not however see Mnangagwa reacting as Mugabe warned he would.
“The need for external capital may act as a restraint on that sort of reaction,” said the Exotix Capital analyst.
Indeed, Mnangagwa has actively quoted foreign capital since coming to power, repeatedly declaring that the country is open for business; its long-crippled economy notwithstanding.
He also sees a credible election as a key part of his government’s bid to re-engage with the international community.
Indeed, Saturday’s explosion will not stop the elections which are scheduled for July 30.
Explained presidential spokesman George Charamba; “Rest assured that the electoral programme proceeds as scheduled.
“Let there be no mistake about this; inasmuch as ZEC (the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) will proceed, so will the (Mnangagwa) administration proceed with its work programme and economic revival agenda.
“Government continues to function. If anything, the administration is even more emboldened to deliver on its pledges to the people of Zimbabwe in the face of such acts.