Former Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has been rebuked by its long-time allies –Australia and the United States – for political violence.
The uncharacteristic censure by the Australian and US embassies follows the brutal assault of deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma at the doorstep of the party's headquarters in Harare while Tsvangirai watched last month.
what is unacceptable is when internal debate degenerates into violence
The attack has further widened divisions in the once formidable opposition party that nearly toppled President Robert Mugabe.
Australian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Matthew Nieuhaus, is said to have recently met with Tsvangirai, Mangoma and MDC-T Guardian Council acting chairperson Sekai Holland to express concern over violence in the party.
On Monday, the Australian embassy issued a statement expressing deep dismay at recent incidents of violence.
"The use of violence and intimidation to pursue political means is unacceptable, and must not be tolerated," the embassy said.
"It remains essential that all of Zimbabwe's political parties make every effort to ensure the prevention of violent acts.
"We urge all Zimbabwe's political parties to fully respect – within their parties and the nation – the rule of law, right to free speech, freedom of assembly and other democratic freedoms which need to be at the heart of the Zimbabwean political discourse."
Tsvangirai is fighting to retain his position after Mangoma publicly told him to step down.
In a separate statement also on Monday, the US embassy said: "We condemn such acts of violence, which have no place in modern political discourse.
"We enjoin all parties to respect the rule of law, freedom of assembly and the right to free speech, which should be the hallmarks of a modern, democratic Zimbabwe."
The EU envoy to Harare, Aldo Dell'Ariccia, told the media last week that "we consider civilised ways of doing politics is essential to the democratic discourse.
"The point is there should be healthy democratic processes in each party and we are convinced that it is wise that all parties have internal democratic dynamics but what is unacceptable is when internal debate degenerates into violence.
Tsvangirai has declared he will not step-down, vowing to see out his current term which ends in 2016 and then seek another mandate at the party's elective congress scheduled for that year.