By Leopold Munhende
DRONES, sniffer dogs, security cameras, heavily armed soldiers and police officers, hundreds more embedded in the crowds turned the National Heroes Acre into a virtual cantonment area as President Emmerson Mnangagwa presided over the official Heroes Day celebrations on Monday.
As usual, his motorcade arrived, accompanied by armed military, Central Intelligence and Presidential Guard officers already pointing cocked guns at anyone in their way and seemingly ready for any repeat of the White City stadium explosion.
As he gave his address, Mnangagwa, who survived a bomb blast in Bulawayo last year, was guarded by five details, two standing within a metre of the Zanu PF leader and two barely two metres away.
In all the times, Mnangagwa had a number of heavily armed details that appeared to have been increased in number.
Six others were off the stage, three-aside while two soldiers carrying AK-47s stood ready on either side of the stage. They were constantly relieved after five minute intervals.
By stage on which Mnangagwa delivered his speech, it was difficult to miss a 360 degree focus camera at its top right corner providing a wide shot of its surroundings.
Police officers stood on most corners of Harare along Samora Machel Avenue, the road leading to the national shrine, creating a siege mentality, days before the opposition planned demonstration rolls into town.
At the entrance, a number of army trucks and buses offloaded more military and security personnel.
Everyone was searched by police officers, while those with any type of bag or electronic gadget other than phones had to be cleared by sniffer dogs and some Presidential Guard officers at the entrance of the shrine’s main arena.
Two drones circled the sky, scanning the area beneath for any security threat throughout the programme.
The bushes had more armed paramilitary officers (Support Unit) and army officers ready.
Mnangagwa has survived a number of alleged assassination attempts that include an ice-cream poisoning incident that occurred at the height of Zanu PF factionalism in mid-2017 before he was sacked.
He had to be flown from Gwanda to a military facility in Gweru before being transferred to South Africa for further treatment.
Mnangagwa suggested the ice cream delivered from then Zanu PF leader Robert Mugabe’s Gushungo Dairies had been laced with palladium, a toxic metal poison associated with Russian intelligence.
Before that, his Zanu PF headquarters office was once laced with Cyanide leaving Mnangagwa’s female aid injured on the day the then Justice Minister was appointed Zanu PF second secretary and Vice President in 2014.