BULAWAYO – Police are still to make inroads in their investigations into the White City Stadium bomb blast in June in spite of claims by President Emmerson Mnangagwa that the suspects are now known.
Police sources told the Daily News on Sunday last week that the probe was still inconclusive despite the bold official claims, suggesting there was conflict between security arms deployed to work on this sensitive case.
Last month, Mnangagwa told Zanu PF candidates who excelled in the just-ended harmonised polls that “we now have the knowledge of who did it”.
He said all they were waiting for was for the electoral processes to pass, before dealing with the matter.
Events on the ground are, however, pointing to a government at war with itself on how to proceed with the investigations.
A top security agent here told the Daily News on Sunday last week that police were yet to identify and arrest the suspects.
He said the police have been cast aside in the investigations, with other security arms getting ahead of them.
“This is a high security issue, maybe those in Harare know things that we might not know here. Remember we have been shut out of this. But as far as we are concerned here in Bulawayo, we are still hunting for the suspects,” he said.
Police have dangled a $100 000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspects.
This was after Mnangagwa narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on June 23 when an explosion rocked a Zanu PF rally at White City Stadium.
The blast claimed lives of two security aides, while scores of Zanu PF supporters, including top government officials, were injured.
As the hunt for suspects intensified days after the explosion, police arrested and briefly dragged to court two suspects — Douglas Musekiwa and John Zulu — from Old Pumula suburb.
After having spent almost a week in incarceration, it later turned out that the suspects were merely touts operating from Old Pumula Bus Terminus.
They were released as the law enforcers apparently failed to stitch up evidence against them.
In a desperate bid to get to the bottom of the matter, government hired seven Belarusian ballistics experts to assist the multi-agency security team investigating the deadly grenade attack.
This brought the number of foreign investigators assisting the local team to 11 after four Russian experts had earlier on reportedly been engaged into the investigations as well.
Police sources told the Daily News on Sunday that the investigations by the Russians revealed that the explosive used in carrying out the attack was a grenade made in the former Soviet Union, which was lobbed towards the direction of Mnangagwa and his entourage as they were leaving the high table.
The sources said investigators are still to identify where exactly the device came from.
Then Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu referred questions to police spokesperson Charity Charamba after he had been contacted for comment.
“Talk to Charamba, she is in a better position to tell you about that because they (police) are the ones who have such reports,” Mpofu said ahead of the new Cabinet announcement that saw him lose his post.
Charamba was not helpful either, as she said: “I don’t have information at the moment. I will try to contact my team in Bulawayo and hear if there is any update.”
Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Paul Mangwana refused to be drawn into the matter, referring this reporter to security agents assigned to handle the investigations.
“It’s a security matter which is being handled by the security agents not the party,” he said.
Pressed to shed more light on claims by Mnangagwa that the suspects have been identified, Mangwana said: “The president was speaking as the president of Zimbabwe not the president of the party.”
Observers have strongly argued that the bomb blast was an inside job, mostly likely to have been fuelled by the factional tensions in the ruling Zanu PF party.
In an interview with the BBC in July, Mnangagwa gave credence to these suspicions when he told the interviewer that his “hunch without evidence” was that loyalists of former president Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace, were behind the attack.
Legal experts told the Daily News on Sunday last week that the investigators should be given time to do a thorough job and not to rush to make arrests without conclusive evidence.
Lawyer Dumisani Dube said it was clear from Mnangagwa’s statements that the investigations were still underway and that once investigations have been finalised, police would then move to effect arrests.
“Our Constitution does not call for indefinite incarcerations on the rights of accused and arrested persons who are deemed innocent until they have been proven otherwise by a competent court after a free and fair trial and there is evidence beyond reasonable doubt that indeed there have committed the offence alleged.
“Simply put, it is the due process of the law which is unravelling and, as usual, wheels of justice are very slow to move: However, once in motion they move,” Dube said.
Respected lawyer David Coltart said now that Mnangagwa has been inaugurated following his narrow victory at the polls, he should fulfil his promise not only for his benefit but for the nation too.
“As I recall Mnangagwa said he knew who the suspect was but he would wait for the outcome of the election. But now that he has been inaugurated one would expect that if they know who the suspect is, that person will now be formally arrested and prosecuted before our courts but this has not happened,” Coltart said.
“In the interest of Mnangagwa’s own security and safety, (it is important) that he who is responsible for the attack is brought before the court as soon as possible.
But, the fact that it has not happened makes us wonder if they got the suspect as they say.”