Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has accused Western diplomats of trying to destabilise the southern African country following criticism over growing cases of political violence ahead of next year’s elections.
Tension is rising in the country following a spike in political violence ahead of major by-elections on March 26, which are seen as a test run for the 2023 polls.
United Kingdom legislators last week expressed outrage after Zimbabwe’s Vice President Constantino Chiwenga threatened to crush the main opposition party “like lice” while campaigning for the ruling Zanu PF party.
The European Union (EU), United States, UK and Australian embassies in Zimbabwe have recently issued statements condemning violence against the newly formed Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), which is led by Nelson Chamisa.
President Mnangagwa on Friday told diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe that they would be allowed to observe the elections, but his administration would not allow any interference.
“It is most unfortunate that as Zimbabwe prepares for the 2023 harmonised general elections, some forces are already seeking to influence the national discourse and destabilise the peace and stability we are enjoying as country,” he said in the address.
“Sadly, this is not new to us and is part of the decades old regime change agenda.
“Those of you who may be inclined to perpetuating this blatant interference in the internal affairs of our country are urged to introspect and stop this unbecoming practice.”
President Mnangagwa added: “Let the people of Zimbabwe enjoy their unfettered right to choose their leadership.
“It is our democratic right, a right we fought for, and a right which we will protect, respect and uphold to the letter.”
The 80-year-old leader will be seeking a second full term in the 2023 polls after coming into power six years ago following a military coup that toppled long-time ruler Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa will be up against Chamisa, a 44-year-old advocate whose newly formed party has been attracting record crowds for its by-elections campaign.
President Mnangagwa’s administration also accuses Western countries of sponsoring the opposition to effect regime change in Zimbabwe.