Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa uninjured in 'assassination attempt' explosion

Emmerson Mnangagwa was not injured in the explosion. Credit: AP/PA

A blast at a political rally where Zimbabwe's President was speaking was an "assassination attempt" the country's media has said.

Emmerson Mnangagwa was not hurt in the explosion and was evacuated from the stadium, however, state media reported at least eight people were injured, including the two vice presidents.

Speaking after the blast, the 75-year-old said it happened a "few inches away from me, but it is not my time".

He told Zimbabwean media that there had been "so many" attempts on his life in the past and that he is used to them, adding: "I can assure you these are my normal enemies."

Mr Mnangagwa had been speaking in Bulawayo ahead of July's historic election, the first since longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down.

The blast occurred as Mnangagwa had just finished addressing the crowd and was leaving the podium.

Footage posted online showed the president waving to the crowd, turning to step off the podium and walking into the open-sided VIP tent, where seconds later the explosion occurred.

People can be seen ducking, screaming and rushing for the exits, as smoke billows at the scene.

In a statement posted on his official Facebook page, and in a number of tweets, Mr Mnangagwa said his "thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this senseless act of violence".

He continued he would not "allow this cowardly act to get in our way as we move towards elections.

"Let us continue to be united and address our differences peacefully.

"The strongest response to violence is peace.

"The strongest response to hate is love."

The speech had been broadcast on television, but the broadcast was immediately ended after the blast.

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

The explosion came just hours after a similar attack in Ethiopia, where a blast killed at least one person and injured scores just after the new Prime Minister addressed a huge rally in the capital.

An investigation into the Bulawayo blast is said to be underway.

Mr Mnangagwa took power in November after his former ally Mr Mugabe stepped down under military pressure.

That dramatic transfer of power began when Mr Mnangagwa was fired as Mr Mugabe's deputy and said he had to immediately flee the country for his life.

The July 30 election will be the first without Mr Mugabe in the southern African nation since independence in 1980.

Mr Mnangagwa has pledged to hold a free and fair election, inviting Western observers for the first time in almost two decades.

Past votes have been marked by allegations of violence and fraud.

World leaders have said that a credible vote in the country is key to lifting international sanctions.

ITV News Africa Correspondent John Ray described the attack as "very worrying" ahead of next month's election, and said suspicions "will focus on elements of the old regime".

He continued that it cast doubt on hopes for a peaceful election in which the stakes were very high.