PRETORIA– President Cyril Ramaphosa has extended South Africa’s deepest condolences to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the people of Ethiopia following an attack against civilians at a rally in Addis Ababa on Saturday.

The rally was held in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reform agenda.

Ramaphosa expressed shock and dismay at the grenade explosion that struck supporters, killing at least two persons and wounding scores more. Many are in a critical condition.

The President, in a statement on Sunday, strongly condemned the cowardly attack.

He expressed his sincere condolences to the families and friends for the loss of their loved ones and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.

President Ramaphosa joins the African Union in expressing South Africa’s full solidarity with the Government and people of Ethiopia and President Abiy Ahmed’s efforts to create unity, reconciliation, peace and democracy in Ethiopia, said the statement issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

In separate statement, Ramaphosa, who is also chair of SADC, said it is vital the political and security situation in Zimbabwe remains stable in the run-up to the general elections.

On Saturday a bomb blast injured several people at a stadium in Bulawayo where Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa had addressed an election rally.

Mnangagwa was unhurt and successfully evacuated after the explosion just below the podium.

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.

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, 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.

Zimbabwean presidential spokesperson George Charamba said they would wait to hear from the police about the explosion and what could have caused it.

According to state broadcaster ZBC, 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 Mnangagwa’s life, with the last incident in August when he was poisoned at a ZANU-PF rally in Gwanda, southern Zimbabwe.