Zimbabwe’s president blames rally attack on Grace Mugabe faction

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*President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the rally at White City stadium in Bulawayo. Photo credit: Zinyange Auntony/AFP/Getty Images

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the president of Zimbabwe, has blamed an apparent assassination attempt at a political rally last weekend on a faction led by Grace Mugabe, the wife of the ousted president Robert Mugabe.

In an interview with the BBC, Mnangagwa said he believed the so-called G40 faction was responsible for the grenade thrown at the podium in the White City stadium in Bulawayo on Saturday afternoon.

The 75-year-old leader, who took power in November following a military takeover that led to the resignation of Mugabe after a rule of 37 years, stopped short of blaming the former first lady directly.

The attack killed two people and injured 49. Both vice-presidents were slightly injured in the blast, as were several other top officials in the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Manangagwa earlier said the attack had been “calculated to achieve a bloodbath” and destabilise the ongoing electoral programme.

The upcoming parliamentary and presidential election is the latest turning point in the most tumultuous few months in almost four decades of Zimbabwe’s political history.

Though the poll on 30 July is realistically a two-horse contest between Zanu-PF against the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the longstanding opposition, more than 20 candidates are contesting the presidency.

“My hunch without evidence is that the people who aggrieved by the new dispensation… are the G40 so that is the logical conclusion,” Mnangagwa told the BBC. “I think this is a political action by some aggrieved persons by the current democratic dispensation in the country.”

There is much bitter history between the current president, a veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation wars and a close aide to Mugabe for decades, and the G40 faction.

The November takeover came after Mnangagwa was sacked as vice-president by the ailing 94-year-old autocrat, a move that he and Zimbabwe’s powerful military saw as clearing the way to power for the 54-year-old first lady and her supporters.

A number of previous alleged assassination attempts have been blamed on the G40 by Mnangagwa and his supporters, including an apparent poisoning last year. No evidence has emerged to implicate any individual or group.

Mnangagwa told the BBC that Grace Mugabe was “politically immature and was easily used by a tool who wanted to get at me”.

Many of those who were close to the former first lady have fled Zimbabwe.

Opposition leaders in Zimbabwe fear the bombing may serve as a pretext for a wide-ranging crackdown by the government or the military in the southern African state.

Manangwa said such concern was unfounded.

“There is no need for a security crackdown … this is a criminal activity … but of course we must make sure the population is protected … and only when we have got them are we going to be able to assess the extent to which the network is spread.”

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