MDC Alliance vice president Tendai Biti has warned that Zimbabwe's political and economic crises have now reached a critical point that could soon lead to a bloodbath.
This comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa vowed recently that the government would flush out "terrorist" opposition groups that are allegedly working with international players to "destabilise" the country.
Speaking on Thursday evening during an online discussion that was organised by South Africa's Jacana Media, Biti said civil strife in the country was imminent - adding that only international community intervention could stop a bloodbath.
"We are entering a very dangerous phase, a phase in which those that are controlling the State know one language - which is repression, violence and authoritarianism. They don't know dialogue. They don't know how to interface with the people.
"As Zimbabweans, we have to defend ourselves in the parameters and limits defined by the Constitution, section 59 of the Constitution.
"But our actions alone as Zimbabweans are not enough. We need the agency, as well as the protection of international law," Biti said.
"The action and activities of (South African) President Cyril Ramaphosa, Sadc, African Union and the United Nations Security Council are very key in international law.
"They have a duty to defend people where there is a violation of human rights. The country's president (Mnangagwa) a few days ago, on the 4th of August made a presentation to the nation.
"In that presentation he used language that is dangerous. He used language like ‘we will flush you out, you are dark forces'.
"The last time I heard that language was in February 1994 in Rwanda and a few months later in April 1994 about 800 000 people lay dead," Biti added.
"I see ominous signs and a closure of space. I see one thing, a definitive attack on the citizens of Zimbabwe that will be very bloody and very nasty.
"We as Zimbabweans, therefore, there is a limit to which we can defend ourselves. We need the agency of the international community in particular.
"President Cyril Ramaphosa, Sadc and the AU, we say this with the circumspect that the region itself is a very toxic region," Biti said further.
"Look at what is happening in Tanzania, Zambia and DRC is democratic in name only, the things that are happening in Mozambique.
"It's a dangerous space that Zimbabwe has found itself in. We are entering a very dangerous phase," he also said.
Biti's warning came a few days after Ramaphosa dispatched his special envoys to Zimbabwe - former vice president Baleka Mbete and ex-ministers Sydney Mufamadi and Ngoako Ramatlhodi - to meet with Mnangagwa after an international outcry over alleged gross human rights violations in the country.
The envoys are set to return to Harare soon, to consult with other stakeholders - including the opposition and civil society - with South Africa saying Zimbabwe's crises are beginning to hurt the regional power.
Mnangagwa recently warned that the government was ready to deal with "renegades", "dark forces" and "terrorist opposition groups" that are allegedly derailing the country's economic revival.
"We will overcome attempts at the destabilisation of our society by a few rogue Zimbabweans acting in league with foreign detractors.
"The reforms, opening up, liberalisation and modernisation we began shall continue with accelerated pace. Those who promote hate and disharmony will never win.
"The bad apples that have attempted to divide our people and to weaken our systems will be flushed out. Good shall triumph over evil," Mnangagwa said.
Biti said Zimbabwe was in a dangerous space as a result of Mnangagwa's utterances.
"The atrocities that we are seeing today that include arrests, abductions, sexual abuses are just the beginning of a fresh wave of a vicious assault on citizens.
"We sit in a very dangerous space. This space is occupied by four things. One of these is the absence of a social
contract, the absence of authority to govern those that are governing.
"The authority to govern is given by citizens and where it is withdrawn and where it was never given voluntarily you have a problem.
"So, the crisis of legitimacy started with the coup of November 2017 which the international community and us Zimbabweans ignored because at that time the concentration was on the departure of authoritarian Robert Mugabe.
"The 2018 elections were contested and, therefore, legitimacy remains an issue. The second issue is the rise of the securocratic State and the rise of the military," Biti said - adding that corruption was also killing the country.
"The rise of State capture … at the core of the State capture is something that has become so endemic, which is corruption.
"I chair the public accounts committee (in Parliament). I have never seen the level of corruption that I have seen, where the Ministry of Finance itself has become the epicentre of draining resources from the government, and this corruption runs into billions.
"This government has failed and failed in absolute terms if you look at our macro-economic figures. We have the second highest rate of inflation in the world, at around 1 400 percent, second to Venezuela.
"We have been in economic decline since 2012. We are in a recession that is fast tracking itself into an economic depression," Biti added.
He also lamented the fact that Zimbabweans lacked any meaningful service delivery.
"When you lack delivery and people raise their voices you resort to violence, vandalism. That is what we are now witnessing at the present moment and no one is safe … literally every one of us is facing one charge or the other.
"I have been convicted, half of our youth movement are actually in hiding and also our vice chairperson Job Sikhala is also hiding … the majority of people that are being assaulted are innocent citizens who simply want to be governed well, want to be loved, to have food on their table, electricity, but the bandit State now criminalises everyone and everything, including expression," Biti said further.
Speaking on Friday, South African minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Naledi Pandor, said Ramaphosa would again soon be dispatching his emissaries to Harare - this time for wider consultations with key stakeholders.
"We sent envoys there (to Zimbabwe) because there have been huge concerns about reports of abuse of human rights, imprisonment of opposition MPs and many other concerns which have been directed at the presidency and my department.
"We agreed that the president would appoint three envoys and they would visit Zimbabwe.
"We asked that they should meet the government, particularly President Mnangagwa, but also meet other stakeholders in the opposition, NGOs and so on," Pandor told South African media.
"Unfortunately, they (special envoys) could not meet other stakeholders, but Zimbabwe has indicated its readiness to facilitate such a visit and we are in discussion with the president (Ramaphosa) about the envoys returning to Zimbabwe to have wider meetings and to be able to have face contact.
"So, we are not distressed by the fact that full expectations were not met in the first visit.
"My understanding is that the discussion was cordial and indeed the desire of President Ramaphosa is that there be meetings with individuals and organisations other than the (Zimbabwean) government. This was communicated by the envoys," Pandor said further.
She also emphasised that South Africa would continue to engage all stakeholders in Zimbabwe so that the crises in the country could be resolved.
"This is something that we must continue to work at because, as I say, the situation of Zimbabwe impacts on South Africa and South Africa has to … resolve the problems there in order to address our own situation and focus on the challenges of South Africa," she added.
Following the meeting with Mnangagwa on Monday, Mufamadi revealed that the envoys had discussed with him the country's situation, as well as the possible solutions to its problems - adding that the finer details of the meeting would be availed later.