Zimbabweans head to the polls on July 30, in the first presidential election since the ouster of President Robert Mugabe last year. Until a week ago, Zimbabwe’s presidential campaigning had been relatively peaceful, with the exception of some violence reported during the party primary elections. That changed abruptly on June 23, when Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s new president, survived a grenade blast at a political rally in Bulawayo, the country’s second-largest city. The president’s office announced on June 26 that two people died from injuries sustained during the attack, while 49 others remained in the hospital.
This was the first time Zimbabwe had seen a direct attack on the life of the sitting president. In the past, the country’s election-related violence has largely been state sponsored. Examples include the 1983 Gukurahundi massacres that left more than 20,000 dead; the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina that displaced over 700,000, and the post-election violence in 2008 that forced opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to withdraw from the presidential race.
Two people have been arrested in connection with the attack. The main opposition, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Nelson Chamisa, has not been linked to the blast.
In an interview with the national broadcaster, Mnangagwa dismissed the notion that the attack could have been engineered by people from Bulawayo, the epicenter of the 1983 Gukurahundi massacres. Some in Zimbabwe continue to hold Mnangagwa, who was state minister at the time, personally responsible for the atrocities.