HARARE – White City Stadium was yesterday turned into a no-go-area as top security officials continued to comb the scene of the weekend’s bomb attack for leads.
This followed a blast that rocked a star rally addressed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday, which left 41 injured, among them senior politicians.
Part of the investigation team dispatched here includes forensic specialists and explosives experts, who are sifting for clues to what is being viewed as an assassination attempt on the life of the President.
When the Daily News visited the stadium yesterday afternoon, the scene had been cordoned off with over a dozen, vigilant armed security personnel from the army and police trying to gather as much evidence as possible to assist the investigating team get to the bottom of the matter.
A yellow crime scene tape had been rolled out to cordon off the scene with the VIIP stage yet to be dismantled.
A combined team of armed police, military police and Central Intelligence Operatives (CIO) could be seen combing the stadium with others manning the gate which links the main stadium to the B Arena.
Members of the public, especially those in the neighbourhood, clearly shied away from the stadium as the atmosphere remained tense.
From the time the explosion ripped the VIIP stage, the scene remained intensely under overnight guard.
Although Mnangagwa escaped unhurt —several VVIPs including Vice President Kembo Mohadi, Zanu PF’s national chairperson Oppah Muchinguri- Kashiri and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga’s wife, Marry, were injured in the melee.
Twenty-nine people were admitted to Mpilo Central Hospital, while a dozen were receiving treatment at Mater Dei Hospital.
Four people were hospitalised at United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH).
Indications were that all the senior Zanu PF and government officials who were admitted at Mater Dei private hospital were airlifted to Harare on the fateful night with only two patients remaining at the private hospital by the time of going to press.
The Daily News understands the injured top officials were evacuated from the Catholic-run Mater Dei Hospital and are now at Manyame Air base Hospital.
Recounting what they had to go through on Saturday, the clinical director at Mpilo Central Hospital, Solwayo Ngwenya, told the Daily News yesterday that the situation was bad.
“Yesterday (Saturday) we saw 29 people and we admitted 16 and 13 went home,” he said.
“There are some with life threatening injuries as well as some with life changing injuries. Some of them underwent surgery last night and were in the intensive care and more are still to go for surgeries for broken limps,” Ngwenya said.
Yesterday, security officials confirmed launching a manhunt in their frantic bid to nab the suspects.
Police spokesperson Charity Charamba told journalists at a press conference in Harare that there was a “substantial reward” for anyone who could lead to the arrest of the person (s) behind the bombing that threw the country into a state of shock a few weeks before the crucial July 30 elections.
“…Police and other security forces would like to assure the nation and reiterate that the comprehensive investigations are in progress at the crime scene at White City Stadium, Bulawayo. All teams are now firmly on the ground conducting investigations,” said Charamba.
“So far the number of people injured is 49 and there are currently receiving treatment at Mater Dei hospital, Mpilo hospital and UBH. However, we expect the number to rise as some victims might come forward during the course of the day,” said Charamba.
Charamba said they will be updating the nation on the progress of the investigations and urged reporters to be patient to enable the completion of the investigation.
Gory pictures of people lying on the ground bleeding or motionless are circulating on social media — in an attack that is the first of its kind in Zimbabwe and has made headlines around the globe.
Meanwhile, analysts have described the Saturday incident as a clear upshot of endless factional politics in the ruling party.
“What is going here is simply the climax of Zanu PF factionalism. Let us not dismiss that. Remember, the factions have always been over power,” veteran arts guru Cont Mhlanga told the Daily News.
“This is a war with deep seated roots and they are dating back to the death of (retired) general Solomon Mujuru. These are internal enemies but fortunately or unfortunately it’s the factional characters that have changed,” he said.
He added: “I am talking of militarised personnel who are inside the system, because honestly it is never easy for someone to execute such a high-profile thing at a high security zone.”
Mhlanga said Matabeleland was fast becoming a Zanu PF factional war zone.
“Security wise, Matabeleland is most strategic. As you are aware Bulawayo has many people who are angry, people who have unresolved pasts with the ruling government, talk of the issue of Gukurahundi. It makes Bulawayo a fertile security area because as you can see now there are many theories that are being bandied around as to who might be responsible, which means it is an advantage to whoever is behind it because one cannot easily point at who did it,” he said.
Journalist cum activist Zenzele Ndebele said the explosion at White City was a clear testimony that Zanu PF was still to go past factional politics.
“It shows that something is not right within Zanu PF; it points to serious internal fights,” Ndebele said.
“However, government should be honest enough and publish the findings of their investigations. The president should brief us on what actually happened on the day. As a country, we don’t know what happened. We need answers.”
Ndebele, just like Mhlanga, queried the use of Matabeleland by Zanu PF as a battlefield for their factional wars.
“But again, the question is: Why are Zanu PF people bringing their squabbles to Matabeleland. Last time Grace (Mugabe) was booed here and now it’s a bomb; they want to paint Bulawayo as a rebel city, that’s not good.”
“My reading of the situation is that this is an internal thing which has got nothing to do with the people of Matabeleland,” said Mbuso Fuzwayo of Ibhetshu Likazulu.
“The big question is how someone can access the stadium that is heavily guarded by the army and CIO operatives before, during and after the event. It does not add up and some of us can simply conclude that it’s an internal job.”
While Zapu president Dumiso Dabengwa refused to be drawn into the Zanu PF debacles yesterday, he said Mnangagwa was well in the loop of what was happening around his life.
“The president was clear yesterday that it’s not the people of Bulawayo. He is clear about who could be the perpetrators of that incident as he said that there have been several attempts on his life,” he said.
Dabengwa, however, ruled out suggestions by others that aggrieved Gukurahundi victims could be behind the incident.
“I don’t see the issue being linked to those who are aggrieved about the unresolved Gukurahundi issue. The people of Matabeleland have their own way that they want the issue of Gukurahundi to be addressed. I don’t think they may want to deal with the matter that way.”