'Byo bombing exposes ED security deficiencies'

HARARE - Political and civil rights activists believe that the bomb explosion that rocked an otherwise sleepy city of Bulawayo on Saturday gives rise to serious questions around the ability of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s security handlers.

Analysts canvassed by the Daily News yesterday said it was clear that there were lapses in the president’s security which needs to be taken care of, including the institution of protocols that should ensure that the presidium is never at one place at the same time.

McDonald Lewanika, a political analyst, told the Daily News that while Mnangagwa was putting on a brave face in the wake of the attack, the reality was that something was amiss in Zanu PF and the security infrastructure, adding that a lot of mistrust and fighting exists which creates space for opportunistic attacks.

“The proximity needed to be able to carry out both the Bulawayo and previous attacks point to all not being well in the State and Zanu PF. Such problems will not be dealt with through ‘beefing up’ security but call for more delicate political solutions and settlements that limit the potential for such attacks in future. It is one thing to protect the presidency from external threats, and yet another to protect it from internal threats,” said Lewanika.

Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, told the Daily News it was a difficult act to balance.

“I saw (former) president Robert Mugabe’s security detail, and it was intimidating — including elite soldiers with Rocket Propelled Grenade Launchers. I think Mnangagwa is trying to be a man of the people and mix as freely as possible with them,” he said.

“(Former US ) president (Barrack) Obama gave the appearance, very convincingly, of doing that. However, whenever he did so, his security detail would fan out immediately and inconspicuously to cover all angles.

“It does seem that Mnangagwa’s security arrangements were casual. The weak point was the short walk from the podium to the VIP tent. That was very exposed and certainly the senior leaders should have departed the podium individually and not in one group. If a modern shrapnel-laden device had been used, everyone would have been dead in one fell swoop.”

Chan said the way Western leaders do it when they visit hospitals, etc, is to appear casual.

“No one notices the security,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean they’re not there. They’re just so professional that no one notices them. The front-line heavies in dark suits and dark glasses belong mostly in films.”

Political analyst Richard Mahomva said the White City incident bluntly substantiates under-currencies of the unfinished business of the November transition.

“It’s even alarming that the VVIP tent was susceptible to such. Therefore, there is need for the criminals to be apprehended least attending rallies is no longer safe,” he told the Daily News.

“If that could happen to VVIPs what can stop that criminal clique in pursuit of a punitive and sabotage agenda from planting a bomb in the crowd next time there is a rally?

“It’s eye-opening as it could be proof of residual succession tensions within Zanu PF.

“This ugly incident could be also reflective of infiltration aimed at exposing security fissures which have the potential to expose Zimbabwe mega political violence. So this is not just a security threat limited to the executive. If not managed it could graduate to be a threat to wider national security,” he said.

Piers Pigou, a senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said there was understandably considerable speculation and many unanswered questions about what happened and how the president and VIP security was handled at the scene of the incident and after.

“This in turn has compounded supposition about such responsibilities, if and whether they are related to those who planned and executed the attack,” he said.

Meanwhile, opposition political parties have said they would turn down State security aides following the Bulawayo bomb blast which left several Zanu PF bigwigs injured.

Spokesperson of the MDC Alliance, Welshman Ncube, said the consequences of last November’s coup — when the military rolled out tanks and sprayed bullets on houses of Generation 40 kingpins were now haunting those who initiated the removal of Mugabe through violent means.

“I think the attack to all those who were attacked regrettable but is also is symptomatic that resorting to violence as an instrument of political settlement is not the solution. When the military moved tanks last November, that was the highest and most naked use of force to determine political fortunes and that set the precedence for all the Tom and Dicks to resort to violence to resolve issues.

“That is unfortunate but the unintended yet foreseeable effect of what happened in November last year. Those who in November last year thought it was legitimate to use force to settle what was essentially an internal Zanu PF succession issue are now bearing the effects.

“I think going forward we should leave political matters to be resolved through peaceful and civilian processes. Of course, the whole attack is regrettable and should not happen again but all of us should not use force to settle political matters of the day, let the people make their choices that is the only legitimate way of solving issues,” said Ncube.

Asked if the opposition would accept security details from the State as pledged by government, Ncube said they would rather have no guns at their functions.

“We would rather operate as civilians and with little weapons around us. We don’t want guns we don’t want bombs close to us no we are fine as we are,” said Ncube.

A total of 23 people are standing as presidential candidates in the forthcoming general elections set for July 30.

Government has said if any among the aspiring candidates falls in harm’s way then that could affect the whole process and therefore there was need to minimise the risk through provision of security details.

In developed nations such as the United States presidential candidates are provided with State security but rarely do they have more than 23 political parties eying the presidency.

Opposition leader Tendai Biti who leads the People’s Democratic Party said they would rather stay under the wing of God than put their faith in guns.

“We don’t believe in violence in Zimbabwe. We would like a full investigation from police into the matter. This is not Zimbabwean culture we totally condemn the violence. We have been victims of violence, I myself have been a victim of violence and don’t wish it on anyone even Zanu PF, of course we are vulnerable, we don’t have guns but we are taken care of by God, they can kill us but they will not kill our spirit and the change that is coming,” said Biti.

Deputy president of the Thokozani Khupe-led MDC-T, Obert Gutu, said violence has no place in Zimbabwe and those behind it should be brought to book.

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