Zanu-PF on Monday urged its supporters to use "any means at your disposal" to disrupt anti-government protests planned for July 31, as a spokesman labelled the main opposition MDC Alliance party a terrorist organisation.
Organisers of the protests against corruption and misgovernance insist that they will be a peaceful demonstration, but Zanu-PF acting spokesman Patrick Chinamasa claimed the plan is to violently oust President Emmerson Mnangagwa on behalf of "neo-colonial interests."
The main organiser of the event Jacob Ngarivhume and campaigning journalist Hopewell Chin'ono were held without bail last week after being accused of inciting violence,
"Zanu-PF calls upon our supporters, cadres and sympathisers, wherever you are, to remain alert and ready to defend yourselves, defend our people, their property and most importantly defend peace in your communities against these malcontents, these hired hooligans and hoodlums who rejoice at burning properties and looting," Chinamasa told a news conference at the Zanu-PF headquarters.
"They must know that when they are being attacked, law enforcement agents might not be near. In those circumstances, their first line of defence is themselves and their families. They have a legal and constitutional right to defend themselves. Don't ask for permission from anybody, it's your constitutional and legal right.
"Don't be intimidated by hooligans and mercenaries. Don't be like sitting ducks as you were in August 2018, don't be sitting ducks as you were in January 2019, phoning us (to ask what you should do). No, this time no. Use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves."
The July 31 protests were called by opposition Transform Zimbabwe leader Ngarivhume, who has met other opposition leaders and activists to canvass support.
MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa said they supported the protests, although his party is not involved in their organisation.
Chinamasa claimed the MDC Alliance was using "trojan horses" in what he described as an "illegal regime change script… to seize power unconstitutionally through the back door."
"As the ruling party, Zanu-PF advises our people to shy away from being misled onto a deadly path by merchants of death who have no interest in the safety and security of our people, and their general welfare," Chinamasa said.
"Zanu-PF therefore appeals to our people to be misled by MDC Alliance malcontents. If the violent activities perpetrated by the MDC opposition were acts done in Europe or the United States, they would have been branded a long time ago a terrorist organisation which in fact they are, along with their trojan horses like the ZCTU, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and others which depend on foreign funding for their anti-people activities."
Chinamasa claimed the MDC Alliance was trying to "gain through violence that which they failed to win through elections", referring to a July 2018 vote which the MDC said was rigged after Chamisa narrowly lost to Mnangagwa.
The MDC Alliance and its supporting organisations, which Chinamasa described as "runner dogs in evil society" were "foreign-funded creatures undermining economic emancipation and empowerment of our people", the Zanu-PF spokesman charged.
"They want to delay the decolonisation of our country… The party and its cadreship will never allow this to happen. We will never allow any malcontents to take over this country, Never!"
He accused western embassies of using the media to "control the national narrative in this country."
Speaking directly to the gathered journalists, he added: "Don't be agents, don't be conduit pipes of the narrative of countries which imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe."
President Emmerson Mnangagwa seized power in a military coup in November 2017 promising economic and political reforms, but Zimbabwe's economic crisis has only deepened under his rule and the opposition says he has closed democratic space.
Last week, Mnangagwa imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew enforced by police and soldiers which he said was aimed at slowing down the spread of the coronavirus, but his opponents say he is tightening security measures to prevent the opposition from mobilising for the demonstrations.