Just over a month before the first Zimbabwe presidential election since a November coup that forced President Robert Mugabe from the post, an assassination attempt has been made on President Emmerson Mnangagwa during a Saturday campaign rally at the White City Stadium in the city of Bulawayo. While Mnangagwa, nicknamed The Crocodile, escaped harm, others weren’t so fortunate.
CNN reports that at least eight people were injured. Among them were both of the country’s vice presidents. Kembo Mohadi suffered injuries to his legs, and Constantino Chiwenga has bruising on his face. Chiwenga’s wife was reportedly injured as well. Her injuries are believed to be minor, but the exact nature of them is not known at this time. Also injured were Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, minister of water, environment and climate, and Engelbert Rugeje, party secretary of the ruling ZANU-PF. Three members of the crew from a Zimbabwe broadcast company were also injured and were taken to the hospital for treatment.
Video footage shows President Mnangagwa waving to the crowd and turning to leave the stage. He walks into a VIP tent seconds before a blast is heard and billows of smoke can be seen. Medical staff were seen rushing to the scene just before state television stopped broadcasting.
Few other details are currently available, but the president’s spokesman, George Charamba, declared that “There has been an incident at Bulawayo where the president was addressing a rally,” and added that details will be made public when they become available. He also stated that multiple attempts have been made on the life of Mnangagwa over the last five years.
Following the blast, he was taken to a house in the city for safety. As Zimbabwe’s second city and an opposition stronghold, Bulawayo is a city of significance.
The U.S. Embassy in Harare condemned the attack in a tweet.
“Political violence in any form is unacceptable & contrary (to the) positive progress required (to) move Zim forward as it seeks (to) take its place on the global stage. Our thoughts & prayers go out (to the) victims & their families.”
President Mnangagwa also spoke out after the apparent assassination attempt, according to a report from Daily Mail. He called it a “senseless act of violence” and “cowardly act” that would not be allowed to become an obstacle to next month’s elections. The overthrow of Mugabe, which necessitated an election, came after he had been in power for 37 years.