Zimbabwe has accused the opposition of conniving with an unnamed world superpower to smuggle arms in an alleged bid to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
State Security Minister Owen Ncube told journalists in the capital Harare on Monday that they were watching “attempts to drive Zimbabwe into chaos.”
The claims by the government followed a recent crackdown against dissent in the wake of widespread protests against corruption and the deteriorating economic situation.
“Some rogue elements among us are conniving with some hostile Western governments to smuggle guns and set up so-called democratic resistance committees that are, for all intents and purposes, violent militia groups,” Mr Ncube said.
“These plans are key components of Operation Lighthouse, the brainchild of one Western superpower that seeks to destroy the democratic foundations of Zimbabwe, make the country ungovernable and justify foreign intervention.”
He added: “As the security sector we shall take concrete action to deal with such threats.”
President Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF party accuses the United States of sponsoring opposition groups in Zimbabwe to foment chaos.
The party last month threatened to expel US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols, describing him as a thug.
Tension between Zimbabwe and the US has been rising in recent months after Harare stepped up arrests of government critics.
The country’s main opposition party MDC Alliance says it is under siege from President Mnangagwa’s government, which it accuses of trying to create a one party state.
Tendai Biti, the MDC Alliance deputy president, said the statements by the security minister showed a sinister plot to crack down on the opposition.
“The regime is preparing for a clampdown,” Mr Biti said. “These are old (President) Mnangagwa tactics.
“In the early 80s they planted arms in (opposition) Zapu farms.
“They are at it again. The Alliance believes in peaceful constitutional change.”
President Mnangagwa was State Security minister in the 1980s when the late Robert Mugabe’s government claimed to have discovered arms of war in properties owned by then main opposition Zapu.
The alleged discovery of the arms led to the deployment of a North Korean trained crack army unit in south-western parts of the country.
An estimated 20,000 Zapu supporters were massacred during the military operation.
In thinly veiled threats against the MDC Alliance, the State Security minister said the opposition should stop questioning President Mnangagwa’s legitimacy.
“While the government is moving on with its reform agenda, we note the need for the MDC Alliance to reform itself into a normal opposition party that embraces outcomes of democratic processes and has the patience to wait for another opportunity to prove to voters that it deserves their trust,” Mr Ncube added.
Mr Chamisa, who narrowly lost the 2018 election to President Mnangagwa, still refuses to accept the outcome of the polls, saying they were rigged.
The 77-year-old ruler replaced Mr Mugabe following a 2017 military coup.