Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party has accused the US embassy of sponsoring Friday’s planned anti-government protests and has threatened to expel its ambassador.
Party spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa said the protests, intended to condemn corruption in government, were an attempt to overthrow the government and suggested they could be met with force.
Mr Chinamasa accused the US ambassador Brian Nichols of “acting as a thug”.
It is a sign of deteriorating relations between the two countries. The US maintains targeted economic sanctions against Zimbabwe over what it says is its poor human rights record.
The US embassy has previously rejected allegations that it is trying to destabilise the country.
The Zimbabwean government has tightened lockdown measures, imposing a dusk-to-dawn curfew as the number of Covid-19 cases rises sharply.
However, opposition groups have accused the government of using the pandemic to clamp down on fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly.
Last week an opposition politician was arrested for organising the protests, as well as a freelance journalist for supporting the call.
Both the UN Human Rights office and the US have warned that the pandemic should not be used to restrict freedoms.