Calling on Zimbabweans to “embrace patriotism, accountability, love and unity”, Mnangagwa vowed to defeat local and external forces that he blames for undermining efforts by his government to revive the economy and reform the political sector.

“The dark forces inside and outside our borders have tampered with our growth and our development for too long,” the Zimbabwean leader said in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday described by critics as a knee-jerk reaction to a global storm about his government’s handling of last week’s planned protests.

Reacting to the public outcry against alleged human rights abuses by his government, Mnangagwa said his regime would “continue to strike a balance between peace and stability (on one hand) and protection of civil rights on the other hand.” 

The address came days after videos of soldiers and police officers attacking protesters after foiling an anti-government demonstration in Harare.

The excesses by the security forces have drawn criticism from the opposition and foreign activists.

These include South Africa’s opposition Economic Freedom Fighters which has launched a #ZimbabweanLivesMatter campaign and threatened to close Zimbabwe’s embassy in Pretoria in protest at the abuses against Zimbabweans.