Saturday 25 May 2019

Zimbabwe rules out delaying election after blast at rally

No arrests have been reported.

Smoke fills the stage following an explosion (AP)
Smoke fills the stage following an explosion (AP)

By Farai Mutsaka, Associated Press

Zimbabwe’s presidential spokesman has ruled out an election delay or a state of emergency after an explosion at the president’s campaign rally on Saturday.

George Charamba told the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper that the historic July 30 vote will go ahead as planned despite the blast that occurred shortly after President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed a stadium crowd in Bulawayo, an opposition stronghold.

At least 41 people, including both of Zimbabwe’s vice presidents, were injured in the explosion that Mr Mnangagwa said occurred just “inches” from him.

Dramatic footage showed him walking off the stage and into a crowded tent where the blast occurred seconds later, sending up smoke as people screamed and ran for cover.

Mr Mnangagwa was unscathed and later pointed out he had had numerous attempts on his life in the past, saying he was used to them by now.

No arrests have been reported.

The president “will not be driven by vengefulness or a spirit of retribution,” Mr Charamba told The Sunday Mail.

“Until the investigators pronounce themselves and present the evidence for arrest and prosecution, no one should ascribe motive or blame.”

Mr Mnangagwa, shortly after the attack, told the state broadcaster, without elaborating, that those responsible must have come from “outside Bulawayo”.

He added: “I can assure you these are my normal enemies.”

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, condemned the attack.

The president has vowed to hold a free and fair election, the first since long-time leader Robert Mugabe stepped down in November under military pressure.

Allegations of violence and fraud marked past votes.

Mr Mnangagwa, a long-time ally whose firing as Mr Mugabe’s deputy after a ruling party feud led to the transfer of power, is under pressure to deliver a credible election that western countries see as key to lifting international sanctions.

He has invited election observers from the United States, the European Union and elsewhere for the first time in 16 years.

Mr Mugabe rejected Western observers, accusing them of bias.

Press Association

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