Zimbabwe's Nelson Chamisa calls MDC protesters 'stupid'

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NMDC Alliance leader Nelson ChamisaImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa said protesters had "opened themselves for attacks"

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 President 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.

"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.

Media caption,
BBC captures footage of post-election violence in Harare

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".

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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.

Chamisa cracking under pressure

By Shingai Nyoka, BBC Africa, Harare

It's yet another storm for Mr Chamisa, a gifted orator who unfortunately has had his fair share of gaffes in the nine months he has led the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance.

He has always distanced his party from the 1 August violent protests, in which six people died during a military crackdown. But he may have gone too far this time.

During this week's press conference he appeared angry and agitated, hinting that the authorities who have threatened to arrest him over the deaths are trying to exert pressure on him to accept President Mnangagwa's poll victory.

Doing so would help end the political tensions that have stifled international goodwill since the vote.

He appeared to be cracking under pressure, yet however politically unwise his comments - and even if they do alienate some supporters - Mr Chamisa has in the past always retained a core support base and a legion of supporters willing to explain away the gaffes and half-truths.