FOUR Russian specialists have jetted into the country to assist the multi-agency security team investigating the Bulawayo “bombing” incident which claimed the lives of two local security agents, in an attack which government says was aimed at assassinating President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
By Owen Gagare
This comes as the police and military continue to clash over how the investigation should be carried out, resulting in the two security agencies competing and sabotaging each other rather than having a coordinated investigation.
The explosion occurred soon after Mnangagwa left the stage following his address at White City Stadium on June 23. It claimed the lives of Colour Sergeant Stanley Mugunzva of the Presidential Guard unit in Dzivaresekwa, Harare, who was assigned to Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and Nelson Dube, a security aide to Vice-President Kembo Mohadi.
Officials close to the investigation told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that other than keeping a suspect nabbed shortly after an explosive device — believed to be a hand grenade — was detonated, the military had also seized video recordings of the incident from national broadcaster ZBC. The recordings have been kept away from the police, who also requested for them from the public broadcaster, only to be told the army seized them.
“Part of the videos seized by the military show some soldiers chasing and seizing a suspect, whom the police believe is crucial to the investigation,” a security official revealed.
Police are, however, keen to interview five other suspects identified from alternative video recordings they obtained. Detectives believe the five suspects, alongside a suspect arrested by the military, will be key in solving the crime.
The fate and whereabouts of the suspected perpetrator — whom police detectives described as “a young male, between the ages of 23 and 25 years, about 1,7 metres tall, and dark” — are unknown, as he has not been seen since he was seized by the military.
Police have repeatedly asked for access to the suspect, but have been denied. Two other suspects, Douglas Musekiwa and John Zulu, were arrested over the incident, but have been released due to lack of evidence and the fact that they are ordinary citizens with no expertise of handling grenades or orchestrating such an attack.
Investigators believe the attack was an inside job and was carried out by a person with security training, while the grenade was accessed from the army, given that police no longer keep grenades.
The Russians, investigators say, will help analyse the debris taken from White City Stadium, with the aim of identifying the weapon used in the attack.
“An analysis of the debris and explosive elements in the device can also help in determining the country of origin of the device and the manufacturer,” an official said.
“Security agencies have records of weapons imported into the country so it should be easy for them to identify where the suspects accessed the weapon from.”
It was not clear whether government requested for help from the Russians or whether they had volunteered their services. Russian ambassador to Zimbabwe Sergey Bakharev was said to be out of office yesterday when the Independent sought his comment. The embassy’s second secretary Anna Kryukova declined to comment, saying: “wait until tomorrow when the ambassador is in for confirmation.”
Police spokesperson Charity Charamba declined to comment saying she was attending a funeral. She referred questions to her deputy Paul Nyathi, who said he was off-duty. The incident resulted in government rethinking the security arrangements around Mnangagwa, with 35 security personnel holding a meeting at Munhumutapa Building last Wednesday to conduct a post-mortem of the explosion.
Security sources and government officials told the Independent that if the grenade had not hit a VIP tent rope, caught a deflection to the right and shaved off the cheek of a presidential security aide, it was likely to have landed and exploded within a fatal radius around Mnangagwa. Whether he was the main target or not is still under probe.
The attack came amid infighting within security agencies and escalating political brinkmanship between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga due to unresolved leadership issues within Zanu PF and over the control of levers of state power.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba suggested this when he located the attack in the context of “unresolved leadership issues”.
The Independent has previously reported on the tensions between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, and also among security forces.
Purges after the coup that brought in the new administration within the police and Central Intelligence Organisation ranks were fuelled by the conflicts and distrust at the height of former president Robert Mugabe’s succession battle.