Police have all but shut down their investigation into a bomb explosion at a Zanu PF rally in Bulawayo last year, which President Emmerson Mnangagwa said was an attempt on his life.
A crack team from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), which included 10 detectives from Harare, was withdrawn from the probe in December, ZimLive has learnt.
The investigation also involved the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and Military Intelligence, but now both organisations maintain a passing interest raising the prospect that the crime might never be solved.
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”.
Bomb experts from Belarus joined the investigation briefly, and concluded the explosive device was an offensive fragmentation grenade made in Russia. They projected that it had been lobbed in Mnangagwa’s direction from a distance of about 17-20 meters.
Two men, described as drifters who sometimes worked as commuter omnibus touts, were arrested and later released after it was established they were not connected to the explosion which killed three state security agents and wounded over two dozen people, among them Vice President Kembo Mohadi and Zanu PF chairperson, Oppah Muchinguri.
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 have always bemused investigators, who have so far not found a viable lead, this website has 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 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.
There is, however, one mystery man investigators have failed to locate: their only active lead. They are seeking a man who was roughly in the area from where they believe the grenade was tossed. Over the course of the rally, the man is seen 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.
On July 25 last year, the probe team placed an innocuous advert in The Chronicle newspaper. The advert features a head and shoulders picture of a man in a cap, and asks: “Have you seen him?” The advert then goes on to state that, “Mr Mavura is appealing for assistance in locating his relative (pictured above). Mr Mavura can be contacted on 0774788399.”
ZimLive understands the disguised advert did not generate any suspect, and investigators still do not know the identity of the man.
Only lead … The mystery man who is being sought by investigators allegedly changed T-Shirts during course of rally
In a dramatic intervention last November, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga summoned the whole investigating team, numbering between 20 and 30, to a meeting in Harare. He wanted an update.
“He expressed concern that the investigators’ failure to solve the case was feeding rumours that the military was involved, and by extension him as a former commander and the biggest beneficiary if Mnangagwa had died,” a source familiar with the discussions said.
Conspiracy theorists, after watching a video of the incident, had concluded on the internet that Chiwenga’s behaviour seconds before the bomb went off was suspicious. He stood up to walk with Mnangagwa down the steps from the VIP tent, and then peeled away to his right to greet Joshua Malinga, a disabled Zanu PF politburo member. As he did so, he pulled his wife, Mary, back. Moments later, the bomb went off, missing Mnangagwa but catching Mohadi and Muchinguri who were walking just behind him.
Mayhem … Several people lie injured moments after the bomb explosion which killed three. Joshua Malinga, in wheelchair, was left sitting helplessly as people ran for dear life
At the meeting with Chiwenga, Colonel Benard Wellington Chikura, leading the Military Intelligence team, did most of the talking. Offering no evidence, he again repeated suspicions that the so-called G40 was behind the bombing.
Chikura told Chiwenga that they were monitoring two people, both former Zanu PF youths who had recently joined the National Patriotic Front, a new party linked to the G40. One was a relative of the former Zanu PF deputy secretary for women, Eunice Sandi Moyo, and the other was described as a local “runner” for the former Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere. The so-called “runner” for Kasukuwere was said to have recently bought a plot in Bulawayo’s Trenance suburb with no clear source of funds.
Chikura told Chiwenga that this was based on information obtained from some girlfriends of the two men. The women claimed the duo were so angry over the manner they had left Zanu PF they could see them carrying out such an attack.
To buttress the theory, signal from Kasukuwere’s mobile phone had pinged a local tower in Bulawayo on the date of the bombing. He must have been in town to coordinate the attack, Chikura theorised.
ZimLive has established that Kasukuwere was in Bulawayo on June 23 – but only briefly. He landed in Bulawayo on a Victoria Falls-bound Air Zimbabwe flight from Harare which picked up more passengers at Joshua Mqabuko International Airport. He did not leave the airport. He attended the wedding of the daughter of a Daily News executive in Victoria Falls on the same day.
Chiwenga then told the investigators something that left some of them shocked.
“He said they must just shoot Sandi Moyo and the other G40 people, and the politicians would deal with any international fallout,” one source said.
Investigators have not been able to develop that theory any further, leaving the case a classic whodunnit.
Police told ZimLive that the investigation is ongoing.