Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa speaks during an interview at his offices in Harare. File picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP
MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa was late Thursday night forced to apologise after a mid-afternoon foot-in-mouth gaffe in which he described activists who caused mayhem in Harare on August 1 “stupid”.
Chamisa had told journalists attending his party’s media briefing earlier in the day that the protests that triggered an army backlash leading to the death of six people had been “premature”.
Chamisa said the decision to stage the protest was “stupid”, drawing criticism and support alike on social media.
Some condemned the remarks, saying they were being insensitive and an attempt by Chamisa to distance himself from the protestors who were reportedly chanting his name.
The comments were seen as aimed at cleansing himself after the presidential Commission of Inquiry into the shootings led by former South African President Kgalema Motlante invited him to give evidence.
Chamisa later took to Twitter in a bid to clarify his remarks.
“My remarks to condemn those who killed or injured the innocent, burnt cars & destroyed property on 1 August used ‘words’ that regrettably created the wrong impression,” he said.
“The people have a constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully. Any discomfort caused is sincerely regretted.”
Chamisa has indicated he will not appear before the Commission unless President Emmerson Mnangagwa is also invited.
The army opened fire on protestors who were demanding the release of presidential election results two days after the poll.
Six people died while several others were injured.
However, military and police commanders have, in testimony before Motlante, absolved the soldiers of culpability, instead claiming an opposition paramilitary group known as The Vangaurd could have been responsible.
Chamisa has argued the youth group was disbanded before the July 30 elections, apparently after violent clashes at former party leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s funeral.
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