Mugabe government slams once loyal veterans group as succession battle looms

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The government vows to find out who is behind the veterans’ criticism of Mugabe, and to prosecute all offenders. The leading opposition party, the MDC, praised the group for denouncing Mugabe’s “dictatorial” rule.

A confident looking Emmerson Mnangagwa shakes hands with a timid looking President Robert Mugabe after Mnangagwa was named denfense minister in 2009.

The Zimbabwean government slammed a war veterans group for its unprecedented attack on President Robert Mugabe, the 92-year-old dictator who has ruled the country since it gained independence in 1980.

The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) issued a collective rebuke of Mugabe’s rule, accusing him of corruption and economic mismanagement. The statement, which was unsigned and came after a seven-hour leadership meeting, was blistering in its critique.

“(Mugabe’s) leadership has presided over unbridled corruption and downright mismanagement of the economy, leading to national economic ruin for which the effects are now felt throughout the land,” the ZNLWVA statement said.

Retired Brigadier-General Asher Tapfumaneyi, the most senior civil servant in the veterans’ ministry, slammed the attack on Mugabe on Saturday, and vowed to find those responsible for the letter, and punish them.

“The government … dismisses the said traitorous so-called communiqué, which is treasonable in the constitutional democracy that Zimbabwe is,” Tapfumaneyi said.

“Multi-agency investigations are underway to establish its origins, authorship, ownership and purpose,” he said, adding the government would “bring all associated with it to justice.”

The ZNLWVA rebuke is a sharp reversal for a group that has not only been a long-time supporter of Mugabe but has often resorted to violence to support him.

Talk of succeeding Mugabe

Robert and Grace Mugabe wearing bright green floral pattern with large photos of Robert Mugabe pasted on.Grace Mugabe is seen as a possible contender to take over her husband’s position

The break is a sign of the growing tensions in the country as talk of succeeding Mugabe intensifies.

The succession battle has a few contenders but two factions have distinct advantages. One is linked to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the other to Mugabe’s wife, Grace.

Ibbo Mandaza, head of the Harare-based think-tank Southern African Political and Economic Series, said Mugabe is weakened by the loss of support from the long-dependable veterans.

“Mugabe and his cohorts have a reason to be afraid,” Mandaza said.

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He added that the veterans, who fought in the 1972-1979 war of independence, “have made it clear that their anointed successor is Mnangagwa.”

Grace Mugabe, 51, was not seen as a political aspirant until 2014 when she toured the country and began lashing out at her husband’s critics.

The president has said he is staying out of the succession battle but it’s pretty clear where his loyalties lie. State-run newspapers put out a 12-page supplement on Saturday, full of gushing praise for Mugabe’s wife.

The ZNLWVA won support from Zimbabwe’s main opposition on Friday. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) commended the country’s war veterans for “finally seeing the light” and applauded the group for denouncing Mugabe’s “dictatorial” rule.

bik/jlw (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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