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White City explosion a year on: Victims cry foul

A year after a mysterious explosion rocked Bulawayo’s White City Stadium during a rally addressed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, some survivors say they feel neglected by the government.

Two people were killed and 47 others were injured following the explosion where Mnangagwa said he believed he was the target.

Mnangagwa was leaving the VIP tent, walking to his car, when an object suspected to be a grenade was thrown in his direction.

He later told the BBC that the object “exploded a few inches away from me – but it was not my time”.

While some of the prominent victims such as vice presidents Kembo Mohadi and Constantino Chiwenga and his wife Mary, Zanu PF chairperson Opphah Muchinguri, ruling party commissar Engelbert Rugeje, Zanu PF women’s league secretary Mabel Chinomona and their security details have received top class treatment, investigations have revealed that poor Bulawayo residents are struggling to meet their medical bills.

Some of the victims are accusing Zanu PF and the government of neglecting them and are not happy that the case has not been solved a year later.

The authorities have been mum on the outcome of the investigations amid reports that a crack team from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) that included 10 detectives from Harare was withdrawn from the probe in December last year before making any breakthrough.

Sixty three year-old, David Ndlovu from Nkulumane, who was severely injured on his left thigh, said he was “bitter” that the authorities had forgotten about the victims.

“Authorities have forgotten about us,” he told CITE at his home.

Ndlovu was one of the people who were taken to Mpilo Hospital, but he requested to be transferred to the privately owned Mater Dei Hospital where he could get better treatment.

“I was initially taken to Mpilo, but since I had medical aid, I requested to be transferred to Mater Dei,” he said. “Nobody paid my medical bills and I do not receive assistance of any sort.”

Ndlovu, who is employed by a local company, said he still had a “big hole” in his left thigh, where shrapnel was removed through a surgical operation.

He said he was frustrated that police have not said anything about the investigations, a year after the suspected bombing incident.

“I am bitter,” he charged. “Police are not saying anything about the incident and no one has bothered to make a follow up on how we are coping after those injuries.”

Ndlovu said it appeared that some victims were being given special treatment.

“We hear that others are getting assistance from the government, but I have not received any form of compensation,” he added. “This tells me that some people are more equal than others.

“As I reflect on my circumstances, I am reminded of the story of Animal Farm (where some animals are more equal than others).”

Ndlovu said he knew of a young girl from Njube, who was injured on both legs during the explosion and was unable to walk, as she could not afford to buy crutches.

“Up to now, no one has come to the girl’s rescue,” he said.

Happiness Ntabeni from Entumbane lost her job at a supermarket in Thorngrove after she failed to report for work for almost a month after she was injured in the stampede that followed the explosion.

Ntabeni was admitted at Mpilo Hospital for two weeks and spent another fortnight recuperating at home.

When she returned to work, she was told that the supermarket had hired someone else to do her job.

“The silence by the authorities is very painful and when I think about it, I get depressed,” Ntabeni said. “I almost lost my life on that day.”

On the day of the bombing, she suffered a severe asthma attack.

She said the attacks had now become frequent and she was struggling to buy medication.

“The government only assisted me once when I was admitted at Mpilo Hospital,” Ntabeni said. “I am now being forced to buy inhalers and other medication on a regular basis.”

The woman said she now had started suffering from panic attacks, particularly when she was in public spaces or where there was a gathering.

“Each time I think about that, I get very scared,” she said. “Anything can happen to me at any time and it’s scary.”

Twenty four year-old Pamela Moyo from Old Luveve, who said her ears were “damaged” by the explosion, said although the government paid her medical bills when she was admitted to Mpilo Hospital, she was now forced to buy her own medication as she was yet to fully recover.

“There is nothing coming from the government in terms of assistance to meet my medical expenses,” Moyo, who is unemployed, said.

“We expected the police to have the courtesy to update us on progress regarding the investigations into what really transpired on that day.”

Margaret Chidzoba, a 31 year-old Zanu PF official from Pumula South, however, sang a different tune saying she had been receiving assistance from the government after she suffered a broken foot and serious injuries to her stomach.

Chidzoba said although she was still in pain, doctors at Mpilo Hospital had managed to remove some shrapnel from her tummy.

Some shrapnel is also still lodged in her foot.

“I have not been able to walk properly since that incident,” she said.

“My foot is giving me serious problems.

“There is something lodged in my foot and I am supposed to go to the hospital but I am struggling to walk.”

Chidzoba, a deputy district chairperson in the ruling party, said the incident did not stop her from attending Zanu PF gatherings, as she believed the explosion was an isolated incident.

“I am dedicated to the party and even after that incident, I have attended other rallies, road shows and I was even in the campaign team for last year’s elections,” she said.

“I don’t blame anyone. It is unfortunate that I was injured.”

Chidzoba said the government paid for her physiotherapy after she was discharged from hospital.

“All my medical bills were taken care of by the government,” she said.

“I was told that if I needed anything I should report to my superiors in the party.”

The self-employed woman, however, said recovery for her has been very slow.

“I can’t lift heavy objects. I also have a challenge, as my intestines were tied in the operation,” Chidzoba added.

Not only has the government taken care of her medical bills, but she claimed that police have been giving her regular updates pertaining to their investigations.

“The last time police came here was a month ago, but I was not at home,” she said.

“I think the public have not been given an update because police are still investigating.

“The issue is very sensitive and can’t be shared in public, but in due course police will tell the media what happened on that day.

“I have faith that police are doing something about the incident.”

Chidzoba said the authorities had assured victims like her that compensation for their injuries was being worked out.

Her sentiments were shared by Violet Mhute (50) of Hillside, whose bills were paid by the government after she was admitted at the United Bulawayo Hospitals for a week.

The unemployed Mhute now buys her own medication and suffers panic attacks on a regular basis.

“I grow chills and become scared, especially when I see someone holding a gun on TV,” she said. “I also go to church to pray for both physical and spiritual healing.”

Soon after the incident, the government brought in bomb experts from Belarus, who reportedly concluded that the explosive device was a grenade made in Russia.

There were reports of a tussle to control investigations between the police and army amid claims of an attempted cover-up.

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