Since coming to power through military assistance in November 2017‚ Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has sought to do things differently compared to his predecessor‚ Robert Mugabe‚ but that almost cost his life on Saturday.
The president survived an assassination plot by sheer luck when a grenade thrown in his direction exploded in what he later called a "cowardly act". It missed him but injured 41 people‚ including one of his vice presidents‚ Kembo Mohadi.
Unlike Mugabe‚ Mnangagwa has a smaller team of security personnel around him. When going to work his Mercedes Benz ML is flanked by no more than five cars and two out-rider bikers. This is a major climb-down from Mugabe who had at least 15 vehicles and as many as four bikers flanking him.
Whenever Mugabe hit town‚ sirens would be heard and all traffic in the area stopped in what came to be known as "Bob and the Wailers".
Even the late former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela poked fun at Mugabe's entourage. But Mugabe understood the terrain he operated in‚ having survived a few assassination plots himself.
The relaxed atmosphere around Mnangagwa going as far back as December 2017 could have provided a window of opportunity.
On December 6 one Guthrie Chiredzero‚ 40‚ was nabbed by alert security agents controlling movement of traffic going to King George VI where the president was set to rename the army barracks Josiah Magama Tongogara Barracks. The garrison was the army's command centre when it orchestrated the ouster of Mugabe a few weeks before.
It was Chiredzero's second attempt at getting close to the president. Two days earlier he had sneaked into State House during the inauguration of cabinet ministers. He masqueraded as a state security agent and was spotted near the podium controlling human traffic. It was later established that he had produced a fake Central Intelligence Organisation [CIO] identity card at the security checkpoint to gain entry to State House. He had positioned himself near to where the president was due to sit.
Earlier this month at a rally in Gweru Moses Mavusa‚ a losing candidate in Zanu PF's primary elections went on stage and tried to grab the president's hand while he called a friend to take a picture of them.
He was‚ however‚ whisked away and some of the president's security details were allegedly brought to task over the security breach.
Last week Mnangagwa stopped by a popular food outlet in the Midlands town of Chegutu and went into a queue like ordinary civilians to buy food. He ordered food worth $3.75 with a $20 note and told the cashier to keep the change.
There is no history of Mugabe doing anything close to that. Having been a senior cabinet minister in Mugabe's government‚ Mnangagwa has always had the pleasure of a security detail at his disposal but he gained a reputation of being a lone ranger‚ from time to time even driving his own car alone.
In 2014‚ then Justice and Legal Affairs minister‚ Mnangagwa was involved in a car accident while driving a modest Mercedes Benz E Class. It was reported that he was on his way home.