The president of Zimbabwe escaped injury in an explosion at a campaign rally. Emmerson Mnangagwa said Saturday the device “exploded a few inches from me, but it is not my time.”
The blast happened seconds after Mnangagwa finished addressing the stadium crowd in Bulawayo, an opposition stronghold. The president said there have been “so many” attempts on his life that he is used to them.
State media called the attack an assassination attempt. State television says 42 people were injured in the blast, including one vice president.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility. The run-up to the July 30 presidential vote has been peaceful.
“We will not allow this cowardly act to get in our way as we move towards elections,” Mnangagwa said.
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa said on Twitter “Violence must have no place in our politics.”
On July 30, Zimbabwe is set to hold its first presidential election without longtime leader Robert Mugabe. The 75-year-old Mnangagwa and 40-year-old Chamisa, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change are the main contenders.
CALL FOR PEACE
President Mnangagwa says Zimbabweans should address their differences amicably and not resort to violence to resolve any conflict.
In a statement following a blast at White City Stadium in the country’s second largest city, Bulawayo, Mnangagwa urged Zimbabweans to always embrace each other with love and not engage in violence.
The statement posted on his Facebook page, read in part, “This afternoon (Saturday) as we were leaving a wonderful rally in Bulawayo, there was an explosion on the stage. Several people were affected by the blast, and I have already been to visit them in the hospital. While we await further information, my thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this senseless act of violence.
“The campaign so far has been conducted in a free and peaceful environment, and we will not allow this cowardly act to get in our way as we move towards elections. Let us continue to be united and address our differences peacefully. The strongest response to violence is peace. The strongest response to hate is love.”
He could not say anything about investigations over the blast and possible assailants. The state-controlled Herald newspaper reports that eight people were injured in the blast.
They include Vice President Kembo Mohadi, Zanu-PF national chairman Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Zanu PF national political commissar Engelbert Rugeje and five others.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba told the newspaper that most of the injured people have been attended to and discharged.
“Vice President Mohadi is nursing some leg injuries but he is in good spirit. Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri is still in a state of shock and she had some injuries around her chest. National commissar General Rugeje had some shrapnel in his arm but he has been attended to and discharged. Mai (Mrs Mary) Chiwenga had some lacerations on her face as she tried to rescue one of her aides who had shrapnel in her stomach.
According to the newspaper, Chiwenga had slight bruises on his face. Charamba is quoted by the Herald as saying, “Four security personnel and some chiefs were also injured so all in all we are talking of 8 or 9 people who have been injured.”
Mnangagwa became president last November following a defacto military coup which resulted in former president Robert Mugabe stepping down after the Zimbabwe Defence Forces seized key state institutions.
This was closely followed by public protests linked to the military that were staged by Zimbabweans who praised the army for attempting to remove Mugabe from power.
Realizing that Mugabe wanted to stay put, parliament attempted to impeach him before he threw in the towel. The former Zimbabwean strongman still insists that he was removed from office in a violent coup.
The Southern African Development Community, African Union and other organizations appear to have embraced Mugabe’s removal from office as they called the army’s move a military intervention and not a coup.
Political analyst Dinuzulu Macapulana told VOA Studio 7 that the “assassination attempt on Mnangagwa is an internal issue in the ruling Zanu PF party. It all started with the death of Retired General Solomon Mujuru, followed by the removal of Mugabe from office … and now an attempt on Mnangagwa’s life.
“We are going to see more of this in the ruling party as the army appears to have been behind Mugabe’s removal.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo was not reachable for comment.