President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has accused his potential successors of wanting him dead, saying shame is upon them because “I am not dying”.
Speaking with about 10,000 veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s independence war on Thursday, the oldest African ruler said his frequent trips to Malaysia and Singapore had fed newspaper reports that he was ill and sometimes dying, stoking succession fights in ZANU-PF, the ruing party.
“You then see a stampede now, they will be saying the president is dying. ‘I am not dying, shame on you’,” Reuters quoted him as saying 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.”
He told ruling ZANU-PF supporters to unite against foreign enemies whom he said wanted to destroy the Southern African nation.
Mugabe, who has held power since independence from Britain in 1980, says his heir must be chosen democratically and that his wife will not automatically inherit the role.
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.
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.