Zimbabwe army chief urges ruling party to stop firing ousted VP's supporters

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The incident angered Mugabe who spoke at the same rally shortly after his wife, accusing his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa of organising and sponsoring the hecklers.

"There is distress, trepidation and despondence within the nation", he continued.

"What is obtaining in the revolutionary party is a direct result of the machinations of counter-revolutionaries who have infiltrated the party and whose agenda is to destroy it from within..."

His main rivals within the ruling Zanu-PF party are the younger Generation 40 or G40 group, which has Grace Mugabe's support. The faction has reportedly in the past week drawn up a list of dozens of top party officials whom they want expelled or suspended from the party.

In an unprecedented warning, he said in a statement: "We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in".

"The current purging and cleansing process in Zanu PF which so far is targeting mostly members associated with our liberation history is a serious cause for concern to us in the Defence Forces", he said.

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The speech came a day after Mugabe publicly criticised Mnangagwa for the first time during a speech at a rally on November 4.

The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association condemned Mnangagwa's dismissal last week and said it was breaking with the ruling party.

Mugabe, the world's oldest president, is showing increasing signs of old age, but has refused to name his successor.

Earlier this year President Mugabe warned that he would retire the army generals for their involvement in Zanu PF succession politics.

Mugabe and ZANU-PF have ruled this once prosperous but now economically troubled southern African country since independence from white minority rule in 1980.

KGIV is the most fortified and biggest military barracks in the country and, save for the absence of generals from the Central Intelligence Organisation, Police and Correctional Services, Chiwenga had his ducks in a row and literally threw the gauntlet at Mugabe from the comfort of his citadel of power.

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