Non-violence has long been a tenet of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, but MDC Chairman Lovemore Moyo, who is also speaker of Parliament, has come under fire for telling party supporters in a weekend rally that they should fight back if they are violently attacked.
Moyo told supporters it was their constitutional right to respond to assaults.
Last week the chairman of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF, Simon Khaya Moyo, took heat when he told supporters they should retaliate if they are attacked.
The statements come during a period of mounting tension and violence considered to driven by expectations the country will hold national elections next year, and follow declarations by the parties in the national unity government - ZANU-PF and two MDC formations - urging their followers not to engage in political violence.
Moyo told VOA reporter Chris Gande that while MDC supporters would not be the first to cast a stone - but would no longer be passive if they are attacked.
"It is important that we tell our people the truth, and the truth is that you cannot be every time on the receiving end, and political contestation means power, and therefore we need to make sure as a party we prepare our members," Moyo said.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that his party condemns any party leaders who promote violence.
Most domestic and international political observers have concluded that the Tsvangirai MDC in particular as a former opposition party has most often been the target of political violence, sustaining hundreds of fatalities during the 2008 elections.