Africa

Zimbabwe President Mugabe warns dissenting war veterans

Mugabe supporters gather outside the Zanu-PF's headquarters in Harare (21 July 2016) Image copyright AP
Image caption Robert Mugabe, 92, says he plans to run for president again in 2018 and rule until he dies

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has threatened to punish those war veterans who last week said they were withdrawing their backing for him.

At a rally of his Zanu-PF party supporters and veterans who remain loyal to him, Mr Mugabe also urged the veterans to choose new leaders.

He blamed the West for splits in the veterans' association.

The association, one of Mr Mugabe's key backers, last week accused him of dictatorial tendencies.

In a statement, it also blamed the 92-year-old president for the rapidly deteriorating economic situation in the country.

It was not immediately clear if all of the veterans of the 1970s war against white minority rule agreed with the text.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mugabe loyalists were out in force to show their support for him

Pressure on Mr Mugabe is growing, with factions in the governing Zanu-PF openly fighting to succeed him and protests about the failing economy.

But he has said he plans to run for president again in 2018 and rule until he dies.

Addressing Wednesday's rally in the capital, Harare, Mr Mugabe said: "Once we find out who wrote that statement, the party will punish them.

"During the war we had rebels who we punished... some by detaining them underground, feeding them there".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Mugabe addressed his supporters for the first time since some war veterans denounced him last week

He also warned that "the enemy is trying to divide us", blaming the West - in particular the British and US embassies - for the divisions.

The president also threatened protesters with jail, saying the country did not want violence.

The war veterans spearheaded the invasion of white-owned farms starting in 2000 and have been accused of using election violence to keep Mr Mugabe in power.


Analysis: Brian Hungwe, BBC Africa, Harare

President Robert Mugabe looked subdued when he emerged from his Zanu-PF headquarters to see the thousands of ruling party supporters.

He must be experiencing one of his most trying times.

For six days he has been silent on the subject of the war veterans, who last week urged him to step down, saying they were withdrawing their support for him.

It was a statement that must have rattled him as the usually buoyant 92-year-old did not look himself.

However, as provincial party chairperson after provincial party chairperson began relaying messages of solidarity, asking him to continue his rule, he began to look more rejuvenated.

At that point, he smiled back, and briefly had a chat with his wife before confidently walking to the podium to address the crowd.

His message was aimed at war veterans, who have divided into factions over the battle for succession within Zanu-PF, but most of those in the audience were from the party's youth and women's leagues.

He threatened to deal firmly with his detractors, punish wayward war veterans and warned foreign embassies not to undermine his government before preaching unity within his party's ranks.

By the end he looked more like a man in control of his destiny.


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