Days after a failed bid on his life, Zimbabwe's president has fingered a group with ties to the wife of his ousted predecessor Robert Mugabe. The so-called G40 is aggrieved by the new dispensation, he told the BBC.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa told the British broadcaster he believes the pre-election bombing at a rally he was addressing in Bulawayo was a political act by people aggrieved with the post-Mugabe political landscape.
Mugabe's wife, Grace, "was easily used as a tool by those who wanted to get at me," he said. “On what basis would I trust somebody who was used by a cabal to say things which had no basis at all?"
Without concrete evidence, his hunch was that a faction within the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotric Front (ZANU-PF) was behind the bombing,Mnangagwa told the BBC.
The blast that narrowly missed Mnangagwa killed two people and injured at least 49.
The so-called Generation 40, or G40 was targeted by the army when it forced Mugabe to step down in November, after nearly four decades in power. Most were members of Mugabe's inner circle and some have left Zimbabwe in recent months.
There has been a mixed reaction to Mnangagwa's claims on the BBC.
"It is quite an extraordinary intervention by the president to be making statements as he has made right in the middle of a police investigation. Some will say [he is] trying to redirect the focus of the police investigation towards his enemies." said Mduduyi Mathuthu, a former editor of a state-controlled newspaper editor and critic of the president.
Ambrose Mutinhiri, a former senior ZANU-PF member – now leading the National Patriotic Front, an opposition party backed by the Mugabes – condemned the attack.
"Honestly, I do not know who the culprits are. Maybe he (Mnangagwa) is better informed. But certainly if they are known they must be brought to book. It is barbaric," he said.
Elections to go ahead
The government has vowed to proceed with its first election since independence without Mugabe, despite the bombing. The presidential and parliamentary poll is scheduled for July 30.
Harare has welcomed the first group of international observers in almost two decades. Mugabe repeatedly denied them access.
Altogether 46 countries and 15 regional and international organizations will monitor the poll. A team of 44 European Union observers deployed across 10 provinces countrywide at the weekend.
The election will mark a turning point after some of the most tumultuous months of Zimbabwe's political history. The bombing has raised tensions ahead of the election.
The vast majority of Zimbabwe's 17 million people supported the army's oustingof Mugabe — who was often accused of being a dictator.
Attack 'an isolated event'
Eldred Masunungure, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe, told DW he believes that the attack was an isolated event orchestrated by parts of the ruling party itself.
"It is scary, but I do not think the opposition is involved in any way. I would rather think it is an inter-regime affair, a continuation of struggles within ZANU-PF and the factualism that bedevilled the party in the past three to four years," Masunungure said.
"It might prevent some supporters from attending rallies but the election schedule is unaffected," he said.
At the moment, the deployed election observers are going to play a crucial role, says Musunungure. "Zimbabweans put more faith and confidence in international observers rather than in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) or observers from the African Union (AU). They play a critical role in this particular one, more than they have ever done in previous elections in Zimbabwe."
Masunungure is optimistic that the trajectory of a more open system is likely to continue beyond elections irrespective of which candidate wins. "This process is not irreversible, but it may slow down."
According to Tawanda Chimhini, director of the Election Resource Center, the government urgently needs to deal with unanswered questions from the November coup.
"This coup by the military forced the resignation of Zimbabwe's long-time ruler Robert Mugabe. "It is very disturbing, very worrying. It points to the fragility of the peace that we have seen," 'Chimhini told DW.
"Peace must not just be the absence of violence. It must also include the absence of the threat of the same. I think the threat of violence has been a constant factor leading into this election."
Close race ahead
Zimbabwe's opposition is largely confident that the presence of international observers will limit election irregularities witnessed in the past. Opposition representatives are hoping observers will be able to scrutinize what they allege to be subtle intimidation of the rural populace by the ruling party. "It has been our issue with ZANU-PF to say why are you not allowing observers to come from anywhere in the world," Jameson Timba, an opposition member from the MDC party told DW. "But because they had something to hide, they were denying observers to come."
The poll pits ZANU-PF against the long-standing opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), The MDC's election candidate is Acting Chairman Nelson Chamisa. At 40 he is much younger than the 75-year-old political rival Mnangagwa.
Surveys indicate a potentially close race but one that ZANU-PF should win, analysts say. It will be a key test for Mnangagwa who has pledged to hold free and fair elections and seek to mend international relations. He himself is a veteran hardliner from the ruling ZANU-PF party and was a longtime ally of Mugabe who left the former prosperous country in political turmoil, economical decline and a population in fear of security crackdowns.
Privilege Musvanhiri in Harare contributed to this report.