President Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe on Monday urged Zimbabweans to desist from violence and demonstrate peacefully.
He addressed the nation to mark the country’s 36th Heroes Day celebrations at the national shrine in Harare.
Mugabe said his government would not tolerate any violent demonstrations aimed at removing his government from power.
He spoke as opposition parties and civil society groups have in recent week’s mobilised people through social media to march in the streets in protest against Mugabe’s alleged misrule, economic hardships and rising corruption.
Mugabe said the opposition parties must stick to democracy and fight to wrestle power through elections and not violence.
“We must remain cognizant of the fact that without unity, we cannot make much progress.
“There will be divisions, quarrelling, fighting and violence, that is why things like protests don’t work because usually they end up being violent protests. We don’t want that”, he said.
The President said people should demonstrate peacefully only when such demonstrations are allowed by the police.
Mugabe acknowledged the harsh economic conditions prevailing in the country and said government was implementing a raft of reforms to attract foreign investment and as well strengthen ties with international financial institutions to revive the ailing economy.
He said government would continue to import food to ensure no one starved after an El Nino-induced drought left up to 4.5 million or a quarter of the rural population in need of food aid.
Mugabe also used the celebration to defend the ban on the importation that the country placed on South African products in June.
He explained that the ban was meant to protect the local industry and prevent dumping of sub-standard and second hand products onto the Zimbabwean market.
“Zimbabwe wants the ban to remain in force for up to three years to enable its ailing companies to retool and boost capacity utilization.
Mugabe laid wreaths on graves of some of the heroes and heroines interred at the national shrine and urged Zimbabweans to remain united in defense of the country’s sovereignty.
“We must remain steadfast in our efforts to promote the image of the country in the region and beyond.
Zimbabwe marks Heroes Day annually to honour its sons and daughters who fought for the liberation of the country from British colonial rule.
Zimbabwe won its independence from Britain in 1980 after many years of liberation struggle.