Zimbabwe’s opposition leader has apologised after appearing to insult people who protested over allegations of fraud in July’s election.
Six people were shot dead on 1 August in clashes with security forces.
The same day, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa said he had won the popular vote and that “manipulation” would not prevent his victory. He has refused to accept the election result.
But Mr Chamisa now says the demonstrations were “stupid”.
The vote was the first since long-time Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was ousted from power last year.
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Chamisa distanced himself from the violence and said that the results of the 30 July election had not yet been announced when the protests took place.
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“You are talking about an election that has not been declared. And why would I even react because I do not know the results that will be announced?”
“It was very stupid, even, for people who demonstrated… it was stupid, because they then opened themselves for attacks and manipulation,” he told journalists. “I think whoever demonstrated – it was their right, but I feel it was not called for.”
Security chiefs this week told a commission investigating the violence that Mr Chamisa and other opposition leaders were to blame for inciting violence.
Mr Chamisa has been asked to appear at the inquiry next week but has said he would only testify to the inquiry if President Emmerson Mnangagwa also took part, according to Reuters.
Mr Chamisa later said that his words had “created the wrong impression”, adding that he supported people’s constitutional right to protest and that “any discomfort caused is sincerely regretted”.
Speaking in August, Mr Chamisa had said of the violence: “The thank you we are getting for being peaceful was a thank you of bullets, guns and tanks.”
Mr Chamisa’s opponent Emmerson Mnangagwa narrowly avoided a second-round run-off when he took 50.7% of the vote in August’s election.
The opposition claimed that his vote share – which was just 30,000 more votes than the minimum needed for outright victory – was suspicious.
Zimbabwe’s Nelson Chamisa calls MDC protesters ‘stupid’