Under-siege President Emmerson Mnangagwa has dug in, telling Catholic priests who have rebuked him for poor leadership, to stop using the pulpit to advance detractors' agenda.
This comes after Catholic priests, under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, last week penned a damning condemnation of the Zanu PF led administration for acts of commission and omission.
In their pastoral letter, the Bishops Conference denounced government for putting the country through "a multi-layered crisis", including economic collapse, deepening poverty, corruption and human rights abuses.
The letter elicited a vitriolic response by government through Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa who labelled the clergymen "evil".
Mutsvangwa's response could only ignite more fires as political parties, civic groups and churches have come out guns blazing, scolding a rattled government for digging in in the face of apparent national decay.
Addressing a party politburo Wednesday, Mnangagwa confirmed an intransigent government position, telling party elites that men of the cloth were free to join or form their own political parties if they were itching for a showdown with him.
"It is most unfortunate when men of the cloth begin to use the pulpit to advance a nefarious agenda for detractors of our country.
"Those who want to enter the political realm are welcome to do so. They must come out and form political parties.
"As Zanu PF, we are ready for the 2023 elections," said Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa denied claims Zanu PF was averse to church counsel, adding, the party worked closely with the church during the liberation struggle and in the post-independence era.
"Zanu PF has a close relationship with the church dating back to the days of the liberation struggle," he said.
"In the post-independence period, we continued to work well. Going forward, we remain committed to working well with church to advance the national development agenda, as a united people."