Fresh bid to identify Mnangagwa bomber

Fresh bid to identify Mnangagwa bomber
Published: 11 September 2019 (421 Views)
Investigators are trying to breathe new life into a stalled investigation into the attempted assassination of President Emmerson Mnangagwa in June last year.

On Wednesday, police in Bulawayo - through the state-run Chronicle newspaper - published an image of a suspect asking for the public's help to identify him.

A hand grenade was thrown at Mnangagwa and the entire Zanu-PF leadership as they left the stage at White City Stadium in Bulawayo following a campaign rally.

A multi-agency investigation which at one time included bomb experts from Belarus did not result in any prosecution, despite Mnangagwa claiming he knew who was behind the attack and would order their arrest after elections held in July last year.

Two drifters arrested in the early stages of the investigation were let go.

Police spokeswoman Nomalanga Msebele said the man was "wanted for public violence crime".

"Police want to interview the suspect so that he can clear his name," Msebele said.

According to the Chronicle, police said the suspect was "captured on camera committing public violence in Bulawayo recently."

The picture is not new to ZimLive readers, however. We reported in February that Military Intelligence had watched several hours of television footage from the event taken with different cameras before developing a suspect, who is the man in the picture released by police.

It is not the first time investigators have tried to have the suspect identified using subterfuge. In July last year, they inserted an advert in the Chronicle with a different image of the same man asking: "Have you seen him?"

"Mr John Mavura is appealing for assistance in locating his relative (pictured about). Mr Mavura can be contacted on 0774788399," the accompanying text said.

The investigation was all but abandoned after a 10-man crack team from the Criminal Investigations Department in Harare was withdrawn from the case last December.

Mnangagwa was leaving the VIP tent at White City Stadium to walk the short distance to his waiting bulletproof Mercedes when a grenade was thrown in his direction by an individual in the crowd. It ricocheted off a tent rope and, as Mnangagwa later recounted to the BBC, "exploded a few inches away from me – but it was not my time".

The explosion killed three state security agents and wounded over 40 people, among them Vice President Kembo Mohadi and Zanu-PF chairwoman, Oppah Muchinguri.

Bomb experts from Belarus joined the investigation briefly, and concluded the explosive device was an offensive fragmentation grenade made in Russia, and is in current use by the Zimbabwe military. They projected that it had been lobbed in Mnangagwa's direction from a distance of about 17-20 meters, ZimLive was briefed.

Mnangagwa claimed, just days after the attack, that he knew the identity of the bombers and they would be dealt with after elections, but no arrests have been made.

"I think this is a political action by some persons aggrieved by the current democratic dispensation of the country," Mnangagwa said in the BBC interview.

"My hunch without evidence is that the people who are aggrieved about the new dispensation are the G40," Mnangagwa added, referring to a Zanu-PF faction known as Generation 40 which was loyal to former President Robert Mugabe, ousted in a military coup in November 2017.

After a disputed election win in August last year, Mnangagwa told supporters during a Zanu-PF rally that "we now have the knowledge on who did it. We want the current (electoral) processes to pass then we will deal with that matter."

Mnangagwa's claims always bemused investigators, who have so far not found a viable lead, ZimLive learnt from several interviews with people connected to the investigation.

In its early stages, the investigation got bogged down in inter-agency suspicions, with the military distrustful of the police and CIO, the two security agencies which were loyal to Mugabe until the end.

"The military's first suspicion was that the grenade had come from the police armoury. That was comprehensively quashed because the police got rid of their grenade stocks in the 1980s, and the only people with grenades are the military," one source said, speaking on condition they were not named.

Then it was the turn of the CID to point fingers at the military. In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, police officers inside the stadium were pointed in the general direction where a suspect in a yellow T-Shirt had allegedly ran. Pursuing officers were told by witnesses that their suspect had been picked up by soldiers, but the military denied holding the man.

Using video footage from several cameras that were recording at the time of the explosion, investigators spoke to dozens of people of interest but one-by-one, they were cleared.

Investigators have, however, failed to track down the mystery man police now want identified.

The suspect was seen standing roughly in the area from where they believe the grenade was tossed. Over the course of the rally, the man is seen on video wearing a white Zanu-PF T-Shirt, and then later a yellow Zanu-PF T-Shirt. At one point, he also had a cap on, ZimLive was briefed.

- ZimLive

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