It is vital the political and security situation in Zimbabwe remains stable in the run-up to the general elections, says South African President and Chair of the SADC, Cyril Ramaphosa.
On Saturday a bomb blast injured several people at a stadium in Bulawayo where Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa had addressed an election rally.
President Mnangagwa was unhurt and successfully evacuated after the explosion just below the podium.
In a statement, President Ramaphosa condemned the bomb blast. “Acts of violence and criminality have no place in the democratic process of any sovereign state within the SADC region,” he said.
The elections are to be held on 30 July 2018.
President Ramaphosa said Zimbabwe is ready for elections and SADC will provide all necessary support. He will consult with the Chair of the Organ and ensure that appropriate protection is provided ahead of the elections.
In a message posted on his Facebook page on Saturday night, President Mnangagwa described the incident as an act of cowardice which would not distract him from campaigning for the July elections.
He urged Zimbabweans to remain united and address their political differences peacefully.
"This afternoon, as we were leaving a wonderful rally in Bulawayo, there was an explosion on the stage. Several people were affected by the blast, and I have already been to visit them in the hospital. While we await further information, my thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this senseless act of violence.
"The campaign so far has been conducted in a free and peaceful environment, and we will not allow this cowardly act to get in our way as we move towards elections," he said.
He urged Zimbabweans to remain united saying that "the strongest response to violence is peace. The strongest response to hate is love".
According to the state broadcaster ZBC, Vice President Kembo Mohadi was reportedly injured on the leg and taken to a local hospital for treatment.
The ruling ZANU-PF national chairperson Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri was also said to have been injured.
The broadcaster said three of its crew members who were on duty were injured and had been taken to hospital for treatment.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said they would wait to hear from the police about the explosion and what could have caused it.
According to the ZBC report, indications are that the explosive could have been placed under the VVIP stage close to the exit which was used by President Mnangagwa and officials seated on the high table.
There have been several attempts on President Mnangagwa's life, with the last incident in August when he was poisoned at a ZANU-PF rally in Gwanda, southern Zimbabwe. – SAnews.gov.za-Xinhua