Mnangagwa Urges Zimbabwe Election Calm After Rally Explosion

(Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s suggestion that opponents in the ruling party and not the opposition were responsible for an explosion at a campaign rally has probably strengthened his bid to win next month’s general elections, analysts said.

The first such attack in Zimbabwe’s history, at a political event at the White City stadium in the second-largest city of Bulawayo, immediately drew promises from Mnangagwa, 75, that the July 30 vote will be held on time and the opposition can campaign freely. He suggested the authors of the explosion were among those who opposed his rise to power culminating in becoming president after the military forced Robert Mugabe to step down in November.

Mnangagwa Urges Zimbabwe Election Calm After Rally Explosion

“There’s no doubt that the White City bombing has translated into political sympathy for Mnangagwa by portraying him as a victim,” said Rashweat Mukundu, an analyst at the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute. “It serves him well as it shows apparent insight into his reaction to crisis as a reconciler rather than a vengeful leader.”

While forensic scientists and the police continue to probe the attack that authorities say killed at least two people, including a member of the president’s security team, and injured about 50 on Saturday, Mnangagwa told state radio, “I know who my enemies are. They have tried before.”

He repeated accusations that elements within the governing Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front had tried to poison him in August last year. Mnangagwa later fled the country after Mugabe fired him as vice president. He returned in November after a six-day standoff saw parliament and the military force Mugabe to resign.

Mnangagwa has drawn criticism in the western Matebeleland provinces for his past role in the Mugabe administration. After independence in 1980, he was security minister as North Korean-trained troops carried out massacres in the area in the 1980s that claimed as many as 20,000 lives, according to human-rights groups.

More recently, Mnangagwa’s battles were inside Zanu-PF itself, where he was engaged in a bitter power struggle with a faction of mainly younger party members known as the Generation 40 that backed Mugabe’s wife, Grace.

“As far as I can tell, this is another dimension of the intra-Zanu-PF factionalism,” said Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe. “This is likely the work of an ejected member of the party.”

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