Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe says a delay in paying wages to public workers was "a temporary problem" and no justification for their strike this week, warning of a plot to overthrow his ruling party.
Strike organisers have said they plan to continue the action until he falls, as a spontaneous social media movement has coalesced into the biggest uprising against his rule in nearly a decade.
"The enemy has his eye on overthrowing ZANU-PF," Mr Mugabe told a political rally in Bindura town north of the capital Harare on Friday.
He did not elaborate on who the "enemy" was.
"The issue of salary delays is a temporary problem. It's not a reason for teachers, doctors and nurses to go on strike. Most of them don't understand where we have come from during times of colonialism," Mr Mugabe said in a brief speech.
At a rally attended by about 2500 people, some of whom waited for the president for nine hours, Mr Mugabe said the southern African nation faced hardships.
"We should remember that we are not a country without problems. We have sanctions," said Africa's oldest leader, who is 92 and has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980.
Zimbabweans have been using the internet in recent weeks to call for street protests against the government, bypassing traditional opposition parties as anger grows over his administration's handling of a failing economy.
Mr Mugabe's government is desperate for money and struggling to finance its US$4 billion (NZ$5.49 billion) budget this year.
The shortfalls have led to soldiers, policemen, doctors and teachers being paid weeks late.
As well as the strike by public workers, many Zimbabweans stayed at home on Tuesday and Wednesday and most businesses in the capital shut down, in a protest against economic crisis and corruption.