Zimbabwe’s ruling party ‘will punish’ dissenting war veterans, Mugabe says
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe said he "will punish" the country's influential war veterans association in his first address since the former soldiers issued a scathing critique of his leadership last week.
The country’s influential war veterans issued a communique on 21 July that accused the 92-year-old leader of operating a dictatorship and running the economy into the ground.
Mugabe told thousands of his supporters outside the ruling party’s headquarters in Harare on Wednesday: “Once we find out who wrote that statement, the party will punish them.”
He added that during Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, the party had disciplined rebels by “detaining them underground [and] feeding them there.”
Mugabe took the opportunity to issue fresh threats agains the leader of #ThisFlag movement, pastor Evan Mawarire, saying he is “courting trouble.”
“I am warning Mawarire: keep to your religious side,” Mugabe said. “Once you interfere with politics, you are courting trouble. We know how to deal with enemies who have tried to bring regime change.”
Mawarire said on Tuesday that he had fled to South Africa for fear of his safety.
The war veterans also urged Mugabe to stop using heavy handed tactics to suppress the demonstrations saying the protestors’ demands were justified.
In response, Zimbabwe’s long-serving president told a faction of the war veterans and thousands of other ruling Zanu PF party supporters who had gathered to hear his speech that foreigners were trying to divide them by calling for his ouster.
He singled out the French, British and American embassies saying his government was aware of their alleged activities meant to subvert his government.
“I also want to warn ambassadors,” he told his supporters gathered at the Zanu PF headquarters. “Stop interfering in our politics.”
Mugabe has over the years accused the British government of funding local opposition groups seeking to remove his government.
The veteran ruler says western countries are not happy that his government seized commercial farms from a minority white population for redistribution to landless blacks.
Zimbabwe’s former fighters had also called for Mugabe to give way to his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mugabe challenged Mnangagwa to speak out against war veterans that claimed to be fighting on his behalf.
The ruling party is divided into factions that support Mnangagwa and First Lady Grace Mugabe, however some war veterans say she should not succeed Mugabe because she has no history in the party.
Mnangagwa replaced Joice Mujuru in 2014 after Zimbabwe’s first female vice president was accused of plotting to topple Mugabe.