Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has vowed to hunt down and punish all war veterans involved in criticizing his government.
The president said this on Wednesday at a rally he attended with his wife Grace Mugabe, which is the first he has attended since the war veterans called for his immediate resignation.
Speaking to his supporters in ZANU-PF party headquarter in Harare, President Mugabe assured his supporters of bringing to book the veterans who stabbed him at the back by criticizing his government.
The National Liberation War Veterans Association mainly made up of hard core political force which helped deliver Mugabe election victories, especially in rural areas, for the last 16 years, called on him to step down, after blaming him for the country’s poor economy.
This group had a hand in some of the violence against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ahead of the run-off in the 2008 elections after MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round. It was the same veterans who persuaded Mugabe to seize white-owned farms in 2000
This time, the veterans have vowed not to support him during the next election in 2018. They have become old and weary of the economic situation in the country under the government of President Mugabe. Worst still, they have become poor, and uncared for, only receiving their R3 000 per month pension from time to time.
Though they denied being part of the protest against the Mugabe-led government, the war veterans accused him of “dictatorial tendencies.” Members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) executive had said earlier they would stay away from Wednesday’s rally.
However, Mugabe who is looking more fit, and energetic, told the thousands of Zimbabweans who rallied in his support alongside Zanu-PF officials at the party headquarters that he intended to remain in power:
“As long as the party still wants me to serve, if I still have the energy and still have the life, I will continue,” he said.
“We have assigned some leaders in the party to investigate the origins of this document and give the names of those distributed it. They will be punished severely,”
The country’s economic challenges has brought it down to its knees, paving way for political tension especially against the 92-year-old president who has ruled the country since independence.
Opposition to the government has grown after an unprecedented liquidity crisis hit the economy earlier this year, and civil servants, including the military, are now receiving salaries late.
However, Mugabe has remained more defiant than ever, dishing out punishments for individuals or groups who tend to disrupt his government.
In one of his speeches, the president said, “Once you begin to get involved with our politics, you are courting real trouble…we know how to deal with our enemies who have been trying all along to effect regime change.