Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday slammed what he called attempts by "rogue" citizens working with foreigners to destabilise the country.
In a live television broadcast which was also streamed online, Mnangagwa acknowledged his southern African country was in crisis, but mostly blamed his political opponents, sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe's ruling elite, the ravages of weather and, more recently, the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Undoubtedly my administration has faced many hurdles and attacks since its inauguration," said Mnangagwa, who become president when his predecessor Robert Mugabe was toppled in November 2017, and won a contested election the following year.
"We will overcome, we will defeat the attack, and stop the bleeding of our economy. We will overcome attempts at (the) destabilisation of our society by a few rogue Zimbabweans acting in league with foreign detractors."
Mnangagwa spoke against the backdrop of rising criticism, both inside and outside Zimbabwe, of his government's crackdown on critics and political opponents amid rising public anger over economic hardships.
In neighbouring South Africa, popular rapper AKA, whose real name is Kiernan Forbes, posted a series of Twitter posts at the weekend urging his compatriots to pay more attention to the crisis in Zimbabwe. He suggested there had so far been greater local interest in the plight of African Americans at the hands of police, which has given rise to the 'Black Lives Matter' movement in the United States.
The #ZimbabweanLivesMatter hashtag has now taken root on the social media platform as users add their voices to the debate on the troubled country.
A group of Zimbabweans living in South Africa on Sunday marched from the Union Buildings which house President Cyril Ramaphosa's offices to their country's embassy in the capital Pretoria in solidarity with their compatriots back home.
The march was held in the wake of Zimbabwean authorities arresting several people including journalist Hopewell Chin'ono, charged with sabotage after reporting about an anti-government protest planned for last Friday, as well as award-winning author Tsitsi Dangarembga who was picked up while participating in the march.
The spokesperson for Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Fadzayi Mahere, was similarly arrested for allegedly inciting public violence.
South Africa's government has long faced criticism -- particularly under former president Thabo Mbeki -- for its so-called soft diplomacy on the Zimbabwean crisis, which has seen many people flee to the neighbouring country for a better life.
Zimbabwe's governing ZANU-PF party, first under Mugabe, who ruled for 37 years before being unseated in 2017, and now under Mnangagwa, has long rejected accusations of mismanaging the economy.
The party instead points a finger at saboteurs, initially in retaliation over the government's seizure of white-owned commercial farms in the early 2000s for redistribution among blacks dispossessed of the land during British colonial rule.
On Tuesday Mnangagwa said his government made no apologies "for fixing our systems across the social, economic and political spectrum".
"The bad apples that have attempted to divide our people and to weaken our systems will be flushed out. Good shall triumph over evil," he said.