Is Robert Mugabe finally losing his grip on Zimbabwe?

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  • Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association were pro-Mugabe 
  • Today, they called the president dictatorial, manipulative and egocentric 
  • Surprise revolt comes after nationwide anti-government protests organised

Loyal war veterans in Zimbabwe have begun to turn on dictator Robert Mugabe as anti-government protests gather pace across the country.

Veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war made a significant break with the president for the first time, calling him dictatorial, manipulative and egocentric.

The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association has been a pillar of support for the 92-year-old leader for decades, but it released a statement criticising the man it had long been quick to defend.

Loyal war veterans in Zimbabwe have begun to turn on dictator Robert Mugabe as anti-government protests gather pace across the country (file photo of an anti-Mugabe protest in 2003)
A demonstrator shows a poster during a protest against Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe during the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon, December 8, 2007

Loyal war veterans in Zimbabwe have begun to turn on dictator Robert Mugabe as anti-government protests gather pace across the country (file photos)

Veterans of Zimbabwe's independence war made a significant break with the president for the first time, calling him dictatorial, manipulative and egocentric

Veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war made a significant break with the president for the first time, calling him dictatorial, manipulative and egocentric

The veterans are known for unleashing violence on those opposing the government.

The surprise revolt by Mugabe’s aging corps of loyalists comes after nationwide anti-government protests organised via social media. Many in Zimbabwe are frustrated by a rapidly deteriorating economy and alleged corruption.

‘We note, with concern, shock and dismay, the systematic entrenchment of dictatorial tendencies, personified by the president and his cohorts, which have slowly devoured the values of the liberation struggle,’ the statement said after an association meeting today.

The group said it will no longer support Mugabe’s political campaigns, accusing him of abandoning it for the youth league of the ruling party ZANU-PF.

Mugabe, who has been in power for 36 years, has recently turned toward the youth league for political support, including two rallies attended by tens of thousands of people.

Earlier this week, the president responded to the recent anti-government protests, telling critics to leave Zimbabwe if they are unhappy with conditions at home.

Zimbabwe will pay July salaries for the army on Monday, more than a week late, but teachers will only receive their wages next month, a union official said, as the government grapples with an acute currency shortage.

President Robert Mugabe’s government is facing its biggest financial squeeze since it dumped its hyperinflation-hit currency in 2009 and adopted the U.S. dollar, and is struggling to secure international financing.

Women sing and dance at a protest against the Robert Mugabe dictatorship in Zimbabwe, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London in 2007

Women sing and dance at a protest against the Robert Mugabe dictatorship in Zimbabwe, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London in 2007

Continued salary delays could fuel political tensions in Zimbabwe, which has been hit by drought, a drop in mineral prices and chronic cash shortages – all factors behind protests this month against 92-year-old Mugabe.

Adding their voice to that criticism, veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation war condemned ‘brutal attacks on freedom of expression’ by Mugabe.

‘He has a lot to answer for the serious plight of the national economy. His distaste and disregard of divergent views is unfathomable and must be stopped,’ the national veterans association said in an unprecedented attack on Mugabe.

The head of the civil service union said she had just been informed of the new pay dates.

‘The correct thing is to pay the workers within the month they have worked but we appreciate that the period of delay has been reduced,’ said Cecilia Alexander of the Apex Council union.

Thousands of Mugabe supporters gather at the party headquarters in Harare, Wednesday, July, 20, 2016

Thousands of Mugabe supporters gather at the party headquarters in Harare, Wednesday, July, 20, 2016

Air force and army officers – who are normally paid on the 14th – will receive their dues on July 25, according to a government circular to unions.

Nurses and doctors will be paid on July 27 and the police on July 29 but teachers, who make up the largest number of state employees, will only receive their cheques on August 2.

Without balance of payments support or funding from its traditional Western backers, Harare lives from hand to mouth, spending 82 percent of its national budget on public sector salaries.

A ‘stay away’ protest led by activist pastor Evan Mawarire shut down businesses, government offices, schools and hospitals for a day this month in the biggest act of defiance against Mugabe in a decade.

 

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