By Gift Phiri
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s close protection will be drastically tightened following a botched “attempted assassination” of the head of State at a rally in Bulawayo, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces has said.
This comes as it emerges Mnangagwa’s protection was so defective that it dangerously increased the likelihood that a murder plan involving one or more assassins would succeed.
The fundamental lapse in Mnangagwa’s protective security was seen in failure to conduct a thorough prior inspection of the White City Stadium and the people attending the rally, allowing Mnangagwa and his two deputies Constantino Chiwenga, Kembo Mohadi to leave the rally together, and failure to deploy counter-assault strategies that allowed the attacker to get away.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwisi told a news conference yesterday that they will carry out an immediate and in-depth review of Mnangagwa’s security.
“Normally when such incidents take place, that calls obviously for a review of the security with a view of improving them. That is certainly going to be done,” Mugwisi said.
While the protection of the president has primarily been the autonomous duty of the Police Protection Unit (PPU), this role was delegated to the Presidential Guard that is under the army after the fall of Robert Mugabe.
Even Mnangagwa’s Presidential Aide De Camp (ADC) is now from the army, not the police as was the previous case, with an inter-agency security arrangement now surrounding him.
The Daily News understands that due to the nature of political campaigns and given Mnangagwa’s tremendous exposure to the public — not just on stage, behind the podium but also as he works the crowd, shaking hands, kissing babies and talking to voters — elaborate security measures are being put in place, with advance officers set to be supplemented by teams of extra agents to help secure sites; dog handlers and explosive ordnance disposal technicians to check for explosive devices; and uniformed officers to help control access to sites, man metal detectors and provide counter-sniper support, authoritative security sources said.
Two suspects were picked up last Friday as the security agents intensified their search for leads into what has been widely viewed as an assassination attempt on the life of the president.
The suspects, Douglas Musekiwa and John Zulu, whose ages were not given, appeared at Western Commonage Magistrate Courts in camera on Saturday where the police successfully applied for a warrant of further detention.
Since then, the whereabouts of the two has remained unknown amid speculation that the suspects were released from custody.
Mnangagwa has said he suspects a group linked to the former first lady Grace Mugabe was behind an attempt on his life. When the bomb went off, Grace was visiting Singapore, where her husband was receiving medical treatment. They arrived back home on Tuesday.
NKC African Economics analyst Gary van Staden said there was need to beef up Mnangagwa’s security.
“Whatever the motives and agenda, the incident provides a welcome wake-up call to Mr Mnangagwa’s security detail to rein in their charge and limit unscheduled and unsecured stops at friends’ chicken outlets, for example, and take better care at rallies and other public engagements,” Van Staden said.
Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London also said it does seem that Mnangagwa’s security arrangements were casual and need to be tightened.
“If a modern shrapnel-laden device had been used, everyone would have been dead in one fell swoop,” he said. Daily News