Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa's spokesperson has reportedly said that the veteran politician would not be drawn into a public presidential debate with his rival Nelson Chamisa ahead of a crunch election this year.
According to NewsDay, presidential spokesperson George Charamba said that a televised debate between the two leading contestants was unlikely as his boss would not entertain such an idea.
Chamisa last month challenged Mnangagwa to a presidential debate, claiming he would expose the president's lack of appreciation for critical issues, said a report by The Zimbabwe Mail.
But Charamba said there were many ways that his boss would get the public's attention but a political debate with his main rival was not one of them.
"I don't think we are likely to get it [presidential debate] at all because we don't find any value at all. One key component in political communication is [to] go straight to the voter and there are many ways of doing it outside a presidential debate," Charamba was quoted as saying.
Charamba said that Mnangagwa would not be "lulled" into exposing his election strategy by the opposition.
In response, Chamisa's spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, slammed Mnangagwa's refusal to take part in the debate, saying that he (Mnangagwa) remained in the "analogue" era and had not embraced trends in the world of civilisation.
This came a week after Chamisa and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said there would not be any elections without the necessary electoral reforms.
Chamisa told journalists in Harare last week that his party would not allow Mnangagwa to run an election if it was not satisfied with reforms.
Chamisa also said that he did not trust the electoral body as it was filled with Mnangagwa's allies from the military.
"We have done a forensic audit of who does what in the ZEC [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] secretariat and most of these are of dubious credentials, apart from those who of course served the army and left. Former members of the military can of course serve in any state institution but there are people from spooky organisations and we must chlorinate them because they contaminate ZEC.
"It does not inspire confidence to continue to have them. We will engage ZEC, if they want they can share with the public," Chamisa was quoted as saying.
The southern African country is expected to go to the polls in July.
Mnangagwa has vowed to hold fair elections to ensure Zimbabwe "engages the world as a qualified democratic state", according to the state-owned Herald newspaper.