Harare, Zimbabwe (CNN)Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to "flush out bad apples" trying to divide the country as pressure mounts on the government to stop human rights violations.
President Mnangagwa defiant as citizens protest violations using #Zimbabweanlivesmatter
In a defiant speech on Tuesday, Mnangagwa, who has come under global pressure to stop the arrest, torture and abduction of opposition activists, accused foreign forces of attempting to destabilize the southern African nation.
"Those who promote hate will never win," said the 77-year-old leader in a surprise address, broadcast live on state-owned television.
"The bad apples that have attempted to divide our people and to weaken our systems will be flushed out, Good shall triumph over evil
"My administration has faced many hurdles since its inauguration and these include the divisive elements of some opposition elements, the illegal economic sanctions, cyclones, drought and most recently the deadly COVID 19 pandemic. We will defeat the attack and bleeding on our economy," he added.
His speech comes amid a growing social media campaign #Zimbabweanlivesmatter, a pressure protest against growing human rights abuses in the country.
The global campaign has attracted celebrities and South African politicians such as Julius Malema while other public figures have joined around the world.
South African politician Julius Malema called on the South African government to close the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria to pressure Harare to respect human rights. "We call for the removal of the Zimbabwean Embassy in SA until they restore the human rights in that country. Failure to do so, we will prevent any official from the Zimbabwean government from participating in any gathering in SA until they respect ordinary Zimbabweans," Malema wrote on Twitter.
#Zimbabweanlivesmatter borrows from the global #blacklivesmatter movement and has kickstarted a fierce debate over the country's human rights situation, which has also been condemned by the UN.
Reports of abductions and torture have filtered across the country, with opposition activists being arrested. These include Booker Prize long-listed author Tsitsi Dangarembga and opposition MDC spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere.
According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZHLR), 60 people were arrested last weekend for allegedly inciting public violence.
Internationally acclaimed journalist Hopewell Chin'ono is still jailed for supporting the July 31 protests, along with Jacob Ngarivhume, an opposition leader.
Their bail ruling has been set for Thursday after spending two weeks in remand prison.
Mnangagwa labeled opposition political parties "terrorist groupings" for allegedly working with foreigners to destabilize the country through planned demonstrations last week.
"We will overcome attempts at destabilizing our society by a few rogue Zimbabweans acting in league with foreign detractors.
However, some were not impressed with the rhetoric.
"The speech was shallow, I have to say. I never got anything helpful from it. We are slowly getting back to the pre-November 2017 days of living in constant fear," said 28-year-old Makomborero Haruzivishe a political activist, who is in hiding after being placed on a wanted list for taking part in the July 31st protest.
He is one of the 14 activists on the police list.
The Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights Solomon Dersso said Zimbabwe should not use Covid-19 as a cover up for human rights abuses.
"As we follow situation in Zimbabwe, critical to reiterate @achpr_cadhp view that actions of states even in fighting COVID-19s'd comply with principles of legality, necessity and proportionality, thus no basis 4 arbitrary deprivation of liberty or life, inhumane treatment or torture," Dersso said.