Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Friday issued a stern warning to feuding factions within the ruling party, saying it was time for “a whip of discipline.”
“So those who are saying we belong to this faction or that faction, I say to them shut up, you belong to Zimbabwe first and foremost, whatever you might say,” Mugabe said in a rare address aired by state media.
“Shut up and let us not hear any divisive voices from you, the G40s or what you call Lacoste or whatever, shut up.”
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party is now confronted with infighting by two factions — one is reportedly led by Mugabe’s longtime right-hand man Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa known by the moniker Lacoste, and the other group which has been dubbed G-40, led by a younger generation of cabinet ministers, mostly in their 40s.
Turning to his 92-year-old birthday on Feb. 21, the world’s oldest head of state said it was critical there was unity of purpose ahead of his birthday celebrations and that he wanted to leave a legacy of togetherness for the ruling party.
“We want the road to be clear, we want to go there without division, without the insults from any quarter, with the unity of purpose, with the oneness of our being Zimbabweans,” he said.
The warning also came a day after police used tear gas and water cannons to break an unsanctioned demonstration by war veterans, a politically influential group formed by retired soldiers who fought in the liberation battles that led to the independence of the country in 1980.
Mugabe castigated Christopher Mutsvangwa, Minister of the Welfare Services for War Veterans, War Collaborators, Former Political Detainees and Restrictees for organizing such demonstration.
He said the war veterans minister had lied that he was going to address the meeting “when in fact the president did not know about it.”
Mugabe apologized to the war veterans for the treatment they received at the hands of police. “We regret that they suffered this,” he said.
“We will definitely take action where we feel action should be taken within the party. There is need for a whip of discipline now to be shown and to be used,” he said.
Mugabe was Zimbabwe’s founding father who has served consecutively as the country’s prime minister and later executive president for the past 35 years.
The veteran leader, enjoying wide support from the public, especially in rural areas, has in the past repeatedly brushed off calls or hints for his retirement.
According to the new constitution adopted in 2013, Mugabe could still run for his last term in the top office in the 2018 presidential election race, when he turns 94.
Zimbabwe’s power shake-up occurred last year after he sacked former Vice President Joice Mujuru in 2015 for leading a faction vying to succeed him.
Mnangagwa has then been floated as Mugabe’s most likely successor, but a younger generation of cabinet ministers could not agree. Mugabe’s wife Grace Mugabe, holding a post in the Political Bureau of the ruling party, launched last week a veiled attack on Mnangagwa for trying to push Mugabe out of power.