Veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war have said they will no longer back President Robert Mugabe in elections, in a surprise revolt that comes after a series of recent nationwide anti-government protests.
The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, which had been a pillar of support for the 92-year-old leader for decades, denounced Mugabe on Thursday, calling him dictatorial, manipulative and egocentric.
“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 group said in a statement.
Many in Zimbabwe are frustrated by a rapidly deteriorating economy, a currency crisis and alleged corruption.
Mugabe, who has been in power for 36 years, has recently turned toward the youth league for political support, including in two rallies attended by tens of thousands of people.
Earlier this week, Mugabe responded to the recent anti-government protests, telling critics to leave Zimbabwe if they were unhappy with conditions at home.
The veterans’ group indicated it has had enough of such talk from the president.
“We are dismayed by the president’s tendency to indulge, in his usual vitriol against perceived enemies, including peaceful protesters, as well as war veterans, when the economy is on its knees,” their statement said.
“He has a lot to answer for the serious plight of the national economy.”
They also blamed the southern African country’s economic crisis, the worst since it dumped its hyperinflation-hit currency in 2009 and adopted the US dollar, on “bankrupt leadership”.