Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Thursday accused potential successors for wishing him dead and told ruling ZANU-PF supporters to unite against foreign enemies he said wanted to destroy the Southern African nation.
Africa’s oldest leader at 92 years, Mugabe has held power since independence from Britain in 1980 and says his heir must be chosen democratically and that his wife will not automatically inherit the role.
Mugabe told a meeting of about 10,000 veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s independence war that his frequent trips to Malaysia and Singapore had fed newspaper reports that he was ill and sometimes dying, stoking succession fights in ZANU-PF.
“You then see a stampede now, they will be saying the president is dying. ‘I am not dying, shame on you’,” Mugabe said during the first ever such meeting with the veterans.
“I am there at the mercy of the people. If the people say no, go, I go. But if the people say no, we still want you, I stay on,” said Mugabe at a sports centre in Harare.
Thursday’s meeting came at a time of high tensions in ZANU-PF as party officials position themselves for a post-Mugabe era.
Local media had reported the meeting could split ZANU-PF, especially after Mugabe said last month the veterans had indicated they wanted him to retire. [nL5N16Q4S1]
Instead, veterans pledged their loyalty to Mugabe, but also presented a list of grievances and demands for top positions in government and state-owned firms, diplomatic posts and at least a fifth of all farmland and mining concessions.