Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party leader Nelson Chamisa has had to apologise to his supporters for calling them "stupid" for taking to the streets on August 1 to protest a delay in poll results, resulting in a deadly army crackdown.
Chamisa made the comments at a press conference on Thursday at which he said he would not appear before a commission of enquiry into the violence unless President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his two vice presidents did too.
"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," Chamisa wrote on Twitter after a storm of criticism on social media erupted.
"The people have a constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully. Any discomfort caused is sincerely regretted," he said.
At Thursday’s press conference Chamisa denied that the MDC was behind the violent protests on August 1, that saw vehicles belonging to Zanu-PF torched and their Harare offices stoned. The army responded by shooting dead six civilians.
Chamisa said the demonstrators had opened themselves up to manipulation.
"It was very stupid even for people who demonstrated, to demonstrate for the results to be released. It was stupid because they then opened themselves to attacks and manipulation," Chamisa said.
Watch the video by Zimbo Media below
"It is their right but I feel that it was not called for and that is my view," he said, in comments carried by New Zimbabwe.
The comments were immediately condemned by Zimbabweans on social media, who accused the MDC leader of disrespecting and betraying his supporters.
Wrote @KMutisi: “The Chamisa boy is not a leader, he is very unstable & disrespectful!”
"President Nelson Chamisa needs to learn to be sensitive and polite. It was unnecessary to call protesters stupid. He could have just said it was unwise, one can surely grandstand politely not always with pillory & namecalling," said @sirsh_geon.
And @glenmpani wrote: "Dear @nelsonchamisa citizens who protested on 1st August are not silly or stupid... Every voice counts in a democracy #August1Inquiry.”
Chamisa and other top MDC officials have been summoned to appear before the seven-member commission of enquiry, led by South Africa’s Kgalema Motlanthe, on November 11, according to the private NewsDay.