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Zimbabwe's President Blames Mugabe Loyalists for Blast

Collage: Emmerson Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe
Collage: Emmerson Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe

Zimbabwe's president is blaming a group loyal to former first lady Grace Mugabe for a deadly explosion at one of his campaign rallies.

In a BBC interview Wednesday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa claimed that a group that sought to replace his predecessor, Robert Mugabe, with Grace Mugabe, was behind the June 23 blast. Mnangagwa had just finished addressing the crowd in Bulawayo when the incident occurred.

"My hunch, without evidence, is that the people who are aggrieved by the new dispensation are the G40," he said, "That is a reasonable and logical conclusion one may make."

The G40 is an informal faction of ZANU-PF politicians, including Grace Mugabe, who wanted to replace the party's older officials before she was fired from the ruling party last year.

Mnangagwa came to power last November after Robert Mugabe gave in to military pressure and resigned.

"This is a political action by some aggrieved persons by the current democratic dispensation in the country," he added. "This is a criminal activity; it does not give any dent to the stability of the country. But of course we must make sure the population is protected by hunting down these criminals. Only when we get them we get to know the extent to which the network spreads."

Police say the explosion killed two people and wounded 47 others.

FILE - Injured people are attended to as they lay on the ground following an explosion at a Zanu pf rally in Bulawayo, June, 23, 2018.
FILE - Injured people are attended to as they lay on the ground following an explosion at a Zanu pf rally in Bulawayo, June, 23, 2018.

Mnangagwa also ruled out postponing the presidential and parliamentary elections set for July 30.

After the interview was broadcast, some Zimbabweans criticized Mnangagwa on social media. They included Mduduzi Mathuthu, a former editor of a government-controlled daily and Mnangagwa critic.

"It is an extraordinary intervention by the president to be making statements as he has made right in the middle of police investigations," he tolf VOA. "A lot of Zimbabweans are waiting for police to release their findings and I think a lot of them are waking up with a bit of a surprise the president has made, effectively pre-empting police investigations or redirecting focus of police investigations towards his enemies."

University of Zimbabwe political science professor Eldred Masunungure says he does not believe opposition parties were involved in the blast.

"I would rather think that it is an intra-regime affair — a continuation of the struggles within ZANU-PF," he said. "It is a continuation of the factionalism that bedeviled the party in the past three to four years."

This week, police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said no arrests had been made. She said the police were offering a reward to anyone with credible information regarding the blast.