Hundreds of hard-line supporters of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe will stage a show of strength in support of the veteran president in the capital, Harare, on Wednesday, organisers said.
”The solidarity march is in support of President Robert Mugabe and his policies,” said Joseph Chinotimba, vice-president of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association.
”We, as war veterans, do not know any other leader besides President Mugabe. The solidarity march will be a seal of his policies as he has done everything for this country, full stop,” Chinotimba added.
Mugabe, leader of the former British colony of Rhodesia since independence in 1980, has often used the so-called war veterans to intimidate opponents to his rule, and they were at the vanguard of farm occupations during his controversial land-reform programme, which began in 2000.
While some of the veterans did take part in the war against the all-white regime of Ian Smith, many were not born before 1980.
Zimbabwe’s economy is currently in meltdown, with inflation running at more than 7Ã‚Â 600%. Mugabe has blamed the country’s woes on a limited series of Western sanctions imposed after he allegedly rigged his re-election in 2002.
Many observers have traced the start of Zimbabwe’s economic troubles to Mugabe’s decision to cave in to demands from the veterans in 1997 for improved pensions and benefits.
Some pretenders posing as war veterans cashed in on a flawed vetting system and benefited from the government compensation fund.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe government recently received $7-million from a global fund to finance health programmes in the cash-strapped country, reports said on Tuesday.
The recent donation was part of the $65-million dollars in grants to Harare announced by the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria late last year.
Health Minister David Parirenyatwa told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that $30-million in grants were still due to be paid out.
He said in addition to buying anti-Aids drugs, the money would be used to train doctors and nurses involved in Aids programmes, buy laboratory equipment and upgrade hospitals.
State media complained grants for Zimbabwe were vastly lower than those given to other countries in Southern Africa. — Sapa-AFP, dpa