Zimbabwe leader says blast went off inches away

"He is at the state house in Bulawayo", said spokesman George Charamba.

Mnangagwa suggested he was the target of the attack, which he said also injured Vice Presidents Kembo Mohadi and Constantino Chiwenga.

The Zanu PF National Chairperson Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri is also said to have been injured but we could not confirm the extent of the injury. In a statement, MDC Alliance and presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa condemned all forms of violence in politics after the incident.

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, is traditionally an opposition stronghold.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Zimbabwean president, has been evacuated from a campaign rally following an explosion.

Chiwenga is now one of Zimbabwe's two vice presidents.

"I am used to these attempts", Mnangagwa told state media, adding that an object "exploded a few inches away from me - but it is not my time".

Mr Mnangagwa later visited those who were injured in the blast at the local hospital.

Masunungure told Al Jazeera that although the climate towards the polls seemed more promising of less violence compared to other elections since 2000, the explosion sullied hopes for an election free of tension.

The European Union Saturday began deploying election observers in Zimbabwe for the first time in 16 years, ahead of next month's vote.

Mnangagwa reportedly survived an attempt on his life a year ago when he ate poisoned food at a rally at Phelandaba Stadium in Gwanda, a small town about 550km southwest of the capital.

"Political violence of any nature from any quarter is totally unacceptable", he said.

Global observers are in the country for the first time since 2002 and, if they endorse the conduct of the ballot, it could help Zimbabwe secure funding from worldwide institutions for the first time in two decades.

The events in November that brought Mnangagwa into power were driven by deep divisions in the ruling ZANU-PF party, with different factions vying to take over after the nonagenarian Mugabe eventually relinquished power or died.

  • Rogelio Becker