White City Bombing : An Eyewitness Account

TIME stood still.

This was moments after the blast interrupted the cheers of jubilation at White City Stadium in Bulawayo as President Mnangagwa left the stage after delivering another rousing speech on Saturday.

That moment seemed like a lifetime to panicked and confused onlookers, who became both actors and spectators to the unfolding tragic drama on stage.

Kembo Mohadi, the country’s other Vice President and a man who’s no stranger to blood and mayhem given the time he spent fighting for Zimbabwe’s freedom during the war of liberation, was limping badly as he clutched his right leg.

Cde Christopher Mushowe was lying on his back before he was assisted up by aides and whisked to safety.

In front of him was Vice-President, General Constantino Chiwenga (Retired) who was being helped off the stage by an aide in a white t-shirt, with Dr David Parirenyatwa the Minister of Health and other senior officials walking off the stage the opposite direction from the explosion.

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Making his way behind him, Emmerson Mnangagwa Jnr seemed as confused as the sea of yellow and green at White City that had gathered to hear President Mnangagwa’s vision for Zimbabwe.

They too were at sixes and sevens, trying to make heads or tails of the gory scene unfolding on stage.

Some of the security detail, perhaps guided by instinct, tried to rush to protect their charge, but had an almost synchronized fall moments later as the impact of the blast kicked in.

A number of them, including two army officers were lying down injured; another security aide’s leg was reduced to shattered bones and blood.

While another security aide lay motionless with a deep cut on his head.  I recalled seeing him earlier at Ekusileni Hospital during President Mnangagwa’s visit and how I and a colleague, both fans of boots, admired his nice shoes.

He was later to regain consciousness before he was whisked away by members of the Red Cross mostly made up of female paramedics. To their credit, they reacted swiftly bringing stretchers and whisking the injured to ambulances and then hospitals.

Zanu-PF Youth Secretary for Administration Cde Tendai Chirau briefly spoke with some of the injured details, with one of them assuring him that his injuries were not serious before leaving the stadium.

Remaining behind was Cde Davis Mhambi who assisted the Red Cross in putting the injures on the stretchers.

A moment of shock came when a member of the security I am acquainted to and was seated next to, appeared from behind me with blood on his left leg.

“Ndakuvara sha,” he said in shock. “Come and get my phone and call my wife, she is here among the crowds; tell her that I have been injured,” he said.

Just before the blast, I had just grabbed our chief photographer, Eliah Saushoma who could have run towards the blast, telling him that I needed to do an interview with Cde Mabutho Moyo, a Zanu-PF youth.

The object of the story was for Cde Moyo, one of the youths arrested for booing former First Lady Grace Mugabe on 4 November last year; to share his feelings after President Mnangagwa’s address and the experience he went through during his incarceration among other issues.

Saushoma was to get a fresh picture of Cde Moyo, and stopping him from running towards the Presidential entourage saved him from injury from the explosion that would at worst been fatal.

After the blast, some security aides fell from the stage from the impact of the explosion but not before trying to protect their principals.

One of the security personnel had his jacket ripped off on the top of his shoulder, but ran and tried to form a wall to prevent the crowd that was running in panic towards the stage but collapsed.

However, that was not to be as he was quickly taken to an ambulance to receive treatment.

As I was leaving the stadium, I noticed a cameraman from ZBC holding a female colleague who had been injured by shrapnel from the explosion. She was wincing in pain. By that time soldiers were asking people to leave the ground, but allowed us to call for help for the female camera person and she was taken away.

I was to learn that another two ZBC staffers had also been injured.

An image that remained in my mind was of a Cde Joshua Malinga who cast a lone figure on the stage, stuck to his wheel chair in the midst of the confusion.

Earlier addressing the rally, President Mnangagwa recounted the 4 November 2017 rally after which he was fired as Vice-President of the country by his former boss Mr Robert Mugabe.

“I would like to relate the past history which began here on the 4th of November last year. I was seated where Mrs Chiwenga is sitting but I don’t want her to experience my experience. You all remember what happened and I had no hand in you when you booed the former First Lady,” said President Mnangagwa.

“But I was accused that I was responsible. However, those events created subsequent events that brought about the new dispensation. After being insulted, I congratulated the former First Lady for insulting me then my former boss (former President Mr Robert Mugabe)  said tomorrow I will drop you and he did that.

“However, you are fully aware of the journey our history has unfolded for us leading to the 18th of November last year.”

President Mnangagwa said when Zimbabweans took to the streets calling on Mr Mugabe to step down, the former President made desperate attempts to call him back home from South Africa.

“I will like to mention one small little incident when I was in South Africa, I phoned the former President in the middle of demonstrations which were happening in Harare by all members of the citizenry in this country.

“I could see that every political party participated, members of Christian organisations participated, all our citizens white and black participated in that demonstration and it touched my heart so I phoned the former President,” said President Mnangagwa.

“The former President said ‘is this Emmerson’ and I said yes it’s  Emmerson then he said where are you and I said I was in South Africa then he asked what I was doing there and I said old man you forget that you fired me a few days ago.

“He says no, no, no that’s not correct, just come back, come back now , we have problems here I need to solve these problems together with you. Then I said ‘Mr President I left the country because people surrounding you would want to eliminate me and so I left. Then he says no no no come and stay with me at State House, no one will touch you.”-zimpapers