Zimbabwe normal, all calm after blast?

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By Peta Thornycroft

“It is calm, normal in Harare.” And that calm continued after President Emmerson Mnangagwa told the BBC on Tuesday that he believed his “enemies” in the G40 faction in Zanu-PF had exploded a device to kill him in Bulawayo last Saturday.  

Zanu PF was massively split between two factions, and the G40s supported Robert Mugabe continuing in power, even as he turned 93 last year. Some of them hoped his wife, Grace, would succeed him should he die in office or choose to retire. 

Grace Mugabe lead the charge against Emmerson Mnangagwa and he was sacked from office last October, fled to South Africa and returned home after a soft coup d’etat. He was sworn into office nearly seven months ago. 

So far, there have been no arrests. Mnangagwa did not blame former first lady Grace Mugabe personally, but he said his “enemies” in Zanu-PF could be considered responsible for the blast. 

Despite the bomb, just six weeks ahead of elections, all remains calm in Zimbabwe at present.  

“There are no after-effects here from the explosion. Our teams out in the field also say it is calm and that they have not encountered any disruptions or harassment,” said Eldred Masunugure, veteran political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, who also runs the Mass Public Opinion Institute, which conducts surveys, including political polls.   

It recently published its findings for the long established Afrobarometer political survey on Zimbabwe’s upcoming elections, which predicted that Mr Mnangagwa would win the presidential poll in the first round. But he cautioned that 26 percent of those approached would not disclose who they would vote for. 

Presently MPOI has teams out around the country collecting data to update the survey published last month. 

“It is a legitimate message for Mnangagwa to say he suspects that G40 would be the engineers behind the explosion. But the evidence still has to be presented to link that criminal act to G40. It is common cause that what happened last Saturday is a continuation of the intra Zanu-PF struggles and G40 were part of all that equation. So it looks like a continuation of that.”

He also said that Zanu-PF have had a “bitter internal struggle” which was “yet to be completed…there is unfinished business within Zanu-PF. But we cannot rule out that this was a ‘lone wolf’ in the current administration and that this person is an integral part of the eruptions and struggles still going on within Zanu-PF.”

He said he doubted the explosion would change any political opinions in Zimbabwe. 

Masunungure also said that the Mugabe family had disappeared from public view. It was believed the former president was still in Singapore having medical treatment and Grace Mugabe was helping to look after him in Singapore. Grace Mugabe became astonishingly wealthy during the last few years of her husband’s rule. 

She and her three children live extravagant lives in Harare, far in excess of whatever Robert Mugabe earned in 37 years in power. 

The small bomb exploded at the end of Mnangagwa’s rally at stadium in Bulawayo, where there is some hostility towards him because of his role as security minister after 1980 independence when Mugabe ordered a North Korean-trained brigade to rout the then-opposition. Thousands were killed and fled the country.   

Former Zanu-PF spokesman, Rugare Gumbo, an early victim of Zanu-PF when it was fighting a war against white-ruled Rhodesia in the 1970’s,  and who was expelled from the party four years ago, said: “We heard Mnangagwa clearly say that his enemies are in Harare. He was quick to say his enemies were not in Bulawayo, but we can’t jump to any conclusions. It is a mystery. Some say it is an inside job. 

“Of course, the best known G40 members lost their jobs and were expelled from the party and yes, Grace Mugabe was part of that faction. So many of them were angry,  but she is in Singapore according to the news in Harare at present, with her sick husband. 

“If they knew who had done it they would have arrested them, but Mnangagwa has made it clear he believes that whoever did it  was from the G40 faction in Zanu-PF. If Mugabe had been in power many would have been arrested and tortured, that was his style.   

“So I am relieved that ED (Mnangagwa is known to many by his initials) after the incident says he plans to handle the matter as a criminal offence. 

“So far all is calm, and so far no one has been arrested and we do not yet know what type of explosion it was. ED says we will go on towards elections normally. We all hope this continues.”

After the explosion, G40’s most outspoken leader, Jonathan Moyo, sent several tweets from exile: “…Zanu PF bomb is a tragic reminder that the coup government can’t be trusted to oversee free, fair and credible elections. The coup is still in progress dictated by the violence and impunity that has dogged Zimbabwe since 1980 and now posing an existential threat to the country…..” @ProfJNMoyo  He has not yet responded to the accusations by Mr Mnangagwa that his faction from Zanu PF were prime suspects.

The elections on July 30 will be for a new president, parliament, senate and local government. 

Mnangagwa’s most serious challenge is from Nelson Chamisa, 40, president of the oppostion MDC Alliance, a grouping of several anti Zanu-PF parties. But the MDC is short of cash, and the ruling Zanu-PF has masses of new vehicles, vast postering and gifts for voters. 

If the elections are considered free and fair by mainly Western observers, many say Zimbabwe will receive international help to repay its debt and borrow more to fix its crumbling infrastructure. 

Leading the challenge for Zimbabwe to hold ‘free and fair’ elections is UK’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing. Laing is in South Africa this week, briefing diplomats and journalists about her hopes that the polls will be widely seen as acceptable to end the country’s isolation and extraordinary debt and inability to earn enough foreign money to import what it needs to keep the mines and even agriculture going. 

Independent Foreign Service