Harare - Zimbabwean war veterans turned on their long-time ally President Robert Mugabe, describing him as a dictator in a jolting rebuke underlining political manoeuvring over his succession and mounting anger over economic woes.
The veterans, who have campaigned, often violently, for the veteran leader during presidential elections since 2000, said they were withdrawing their political support, a statement that exposed rifts in the heart of Zimbabwe's establishment.
“(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 Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) said.
“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 veterans added in the statement issued after a seven-hour meeting of its leaders on Thursday evening.
The 92-year-old president - the country's only ruler since independence from Britain - is looking increasingly frail and struggling to walk up stairs in public, though he has said he wants to live to 100, and denies local media reports that he has prostate cancer.