Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to hold free and fair elections later this year.
During his Independence Day speech, he urged Zimbabweans to say no to violence before, during and after the elections.
“My government has put measures in place to ensure free, fair and credible elections”, he said.
However, Mnangagwa also warned “rogue” civil society organizations against sowing “seeds of division and disharmony among us”.
This comes after the country’s parliament approved a bill banning civil society organizations from engaging in politics, allowing the state to intervene in their governance and activities. The law has caused an outcry from rights groups and the global community.
Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF party has been accused in the past of using violence and intimidation to instil fear in opponents during elections.
Two days after the 2018 polls, soldiers killed five people when opposition protestors alleging fraud took to the streets of Harare, burning tires and pulling down street signs.
Mnangagwa, who is seeking re-election, faces widespread discontent as he struggles to ease entrenched poverty, end chronic power cuts, and crippling unemployment.
He won disputed elections in 2018 that his main rival Nelson Chamisa insists were rigged. The two will face off for a second time in the upcoming polls.
Meanwhile, the Human rights group, Amnesty International, described the situation as a rapidly shrinking civic space.
“Freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly have come under increasing attack. Dissenting voices are being criminalized,” said Amnesty’s Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa, Flavia Mwangovya.
“The authorities have refused to give clearance for some of the main opposition party’s rallies, arresting and convicting peaceful protesters, and using unnecessary and excessive force to stop protests