June 23 gave us all a reality check. For some who were there it didn’t sound like an explosion per se, big or lethal; it sounded as if there was a problem with the power supply to the sound system.
But just as it went off, setting off a cloud of dust, people were scampering for safety while others were on the ground, writhing in pain.
It soon dawned on everyone that, actually, a device had detonated at White City Stadium in Bulawayo while President Mnangagwa was walking off the stage after addressing thousands at a Zanu-PF rally at which he drummed up support for the ruling party for the July 30 elections. Forty-nine people were injured, including Vice-President Kembo Mohadi, ruling party chairperson, Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, VP Constantino Chiwenga’s wife, Marry and VIP security aides, two of whom died within three days of the terrorist attack. The President was the target but thank God, he escaped.
Zimbabweans are not used to hearing grenades exploding or some such weapons being discharged wilfully in public but the June 23 incident has, most unfortunately, informed us that this can happen and anyone can be a victim. We have learnt that there are some bad apples among us who can do the unthinkable to advance whatever political ends they have. It is saddening that the rally attack marred a campaign period that has been very peaceful.
A thoroughgoing security review was necessary in the wake of the White City barbarism and measures pursuant to that are now being put in place to ensure that incidents like that don’t recur as we move towards elections and beyond.
Zimbabwe Republic Police Commander for the 2018 Harmonised Elections Committee, Senior Assistant Commissioner Erasmus Makodza, said the security sector has activated robust anti-terrorism measures which will see police introduce special anti-terror personnel, drones and other monitoring mechanisms commensurate with the magnitude of all political gatherings countrywide. He said at least 45 000 specially trained police officers had been tasked to handle security.
“There will be increased vigilance and increased police visibility at all rallies,” he said.
“We will also ensure that we deploy more plainclothes police officers amongst the crowds and we shall be using drones to monitor activities at rallies and capture what is going on. As of our deadline which is 30 June 2018, we expect to have officially trained 45 000 officers ahead of the elections. Our training is focusing on management of harmonised elections, the Electoral Act, public order and disorder training, and human rights. We also have a manual that we have produced for all officers involved. It basically contains the key elements of the Electoral Act which the police will be using during the elections.”
Police district and provincial commanders are issuing bans on dangerous weapons, a process that would culminate in a national prohibition order. Officers commanding in districts that include Masvingo, Mashonaland Central, Manicaland, Midlands, and Mashonaland East have already started issuing the bans that make certain weapons illegal prohibited weapons are catapults, knobkerries, bows and arrows, knives, machetes, axes and spears.
The President has assured that elections will go ahead as scheduled and urged the people to face violence with peace and love. Peace-loving Zimbabweans and the world have condemned the bomb attack. We are all patiently waiting for ongoing investigations to yield arrests, court appearances for the bandits and their deserved punishments. This would serve as a strong message to those among us who could be tempted to engage in violence.
The security sector must apply the law firmly and enhance their surveillance and presence so that militants are contained before they cause damage.
To our people, we appeal to them to understand that violence does not work. Also, no one is immune to it. A bomb or bullet can hit anyone regardless of his or her political beliefs, social or economic standing. If every one of us realises that before they launch that lethal grenade on a rival, someone else can do the same to them, that should instill some discipline among us. Let us do unto others as we would like them to do unto us.“Peace begins with you, peace begins with me; peace begins with all of us!” the late VP Landa John Nkomo used to rhyme. Cde Nkomo was trying to implore our people to appreciate that each one of us has an obligation to seek and uphold peace; that peace is everyone’s responsibility.
It is also important, going forward for our people to be more vigilant than before. They must be always on the lookout for those among them who might want to provoke strife. As soon as they see them, they must alert the security services so that the would-be bandits are apprehended before they destroy, maim and kill.