Assasination attempt on Finance Minister, home bombed

HARARE – There was an assasination attempt on Zimbabwe Finance Minister and MDC-T Secretary-General Tendai Biti's as his house was bombed last night by assailants believed to be linked to President Robert Mugabe's party Zanu PF.

A detonator was used to try and bring down the durawall but the attempt was futile. The durawall did not give away leaving visible markings of the bombing.

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So far no injuries have been reported.

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An explosive device hit the security wall of Zimbabwe finance minister Tendai Biti’s home in an attempted bombing on Sunday but caused no damage, a party spokesperson said.

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On Saturday, President Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba in his weekly article “Nathaniel Manheru” wrote a long scatching article attacking the Minister in an article titled “The super minister who became a mere man”.

“An unidentified object was thrown at Honourable Biti house and hit the security wall,” Nelson Chamisa, organising secretary for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) told AFP.

“I am told the explosion was loud and caused some discomfort among residents in the neighbourhood. We are still trying to ascertain the circumstances,” he added.

The incident at Biti’s home in the Grange suburb came a week after police detained 12 MDC supporters accused of killing a police officer.

The police could not be reached for comment.

Chamisa said a police guard was on duty at the time of the incident.

Biti, a top aide of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and firebrand critic of President Robert Mugabe’s economic policies, was appointed finance minister in the coalition government charged with reviving the moribund economy.

He has been accused by Mugabe and members of his party of refusing to increase the paltry salaries of civil servants and hanging on to a loan meant to finance struggling business.

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On Friday Biti ruffled Robert Mugabe’s feathers on at a tense National Security Council meeting – attended by politicians and state security chiefs – when he confronted him over remarks he made about him at a rally the previous day.

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This is the latest clash between Mugabe and Biti as tensions rise within the shaky inclusive government.

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Insiders said Biti confronted Mugabe and asked him why he lambasted him at a rally with traditional leaders in Manicaland province on Thursday, claiming he had tried to usurp presidential powers.

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Mugabe was said to have angrily mumbled something back before state security service chiefs came to his rescue.

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“Biti asked Mugabe why he was attacking him at the meeting with the chiefs. The president just furiously mumbled back something before state security service chiefs intervened with complaints that the minister was being disrespectful,” said a senior government official who attended the meeting.

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“Biti was annoyed by Mugabe’s remarks and he wanted to get even at the meeting.”

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Mugabe told the rally that Biti had been trying to grab his powers through the back door, apparently referring to the amendment of the Exchange Control Act. Although this was done last year, Mugabe was clearly still harbouring a grudge against Biti.

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In December, Biti was stopped by Zanu-PF lawmakers from amending the act during the national budget, who claimed that he was plotting to usurp “the president’s powers conferred to him by the law”.

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“Biti is even trying to grab some presidential powers in various ways,” Mugabe said. “We now want this Global Political Agreement to end and this should happen this year.”

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Mugabe has never hidden his discomfort with the inclusive government, in which he is constantly challenged and exposed over many issues by officials of the MDC factions.

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He is demanding elections this year to end the coalition government, but he is facing stiff resistance from the MDC officials, who say the conditions for free and fair elections must be created first.

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Another government official said Mugabe’s fight with Biti showed the growing hostility between state security service chiefs and the MDC officials.

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“After Biti’s question directed at Mugabe, (Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantine) Chiwenga and (Police Commissioner General Augustine) Chihuri intervened and engaged Tsvangirai and (Co-Home Affairs Minister Theresa) Makone in protest,” the official said. “They said Biti was being disrespectful.”

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Mugabe chairs the NSC, which is also attended by vice-presidents Joyce Mujuru and John Nkomo, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputies Thokozani Khupe and Arthur Mutambara and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, among others.

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In a new twist to the succession saga, Chiwenga is said to be interested in taking over from Mugabe. Last week one of Mugabe’s loyalists, Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, said the army wanted the Zanu-PF chief to be president for life and they would never acknowledge Tsvangirai even if he won the elections.