President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a televised address on Tuesday that “dark forces” were attempting to derail his presidency and vision for Zimbabwe.
He called them “destructive terrorist opposition groupings” and “dark forces both inside and outside the borders”.
Opposition and civil society groups said reference to “terrorists” meant the president was on the warpath to crush all dissenting voices.
British ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mary Robinson, said she was concerned about “toughening language on and off social media in Zimbabwe”.
Zimbabwe has record inflation at 788% since the reintroduction of the local dollar last year and rampant corruption that has sucked in some members of the first family.
Vice-president of the MDC Alliance Tendai Biti said Mnangagwa was running out of ideas.
“The emperor has no clothes,” he said.
Mnangagwa made no reference in his address to abductions and arrests of civic society activists and opposition politicians ahead of the July 31 demonstrations against his rule.
There is now an international outcry led by South Africans through the hashtag #zimbabwelivesmatter.
EFF leader Julius Malema gained praise from the opposition for suggesting SA should close the Zimbabwe embassy until Mnangagwa addresses human rights abuses.