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Embattled Mugabe Turns To War Veterans For Support

Facing widespread popular disenchantment as the economic collapse turns into a grave crisis, President Robert Mugabe has once again turned to the liberation war veterans to shore up his support and, some say, intimidate a restive population.

Often deployed in the past as administration shock troops, veterans of the 1980s war against colonial, white-ruled Rhodesia, have called a solidarity march on Wednesday in Harare and urged ZANU-PF loyalists to assemble at the party's headquarters.

Joseph Chinotimba, vice president of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, said the group backs the president and approves of his policies.

Analysts warn this show of support suggests campaigning for next year’s presidential and general elections, could be starting to turn in a more violent direction.

ZANU-PF has yet to formally endorse Mr. Mugabe as its presidential candidate and factionalism in the party is intensifying, source say, noting that the question could be definitively resolved at an extraordinary party conference in December.

Mr. Mugabe and his government have come under mounting and intense pressure as the economy's already clear collapse has alarmingly accelerated. The state-controlled Herald newspaper reported earlier this week that the three state-operated fertilizer manufacturers have shut down, boding ill for the planting season coming up.

Harare’s offensive against high prices has worsened shortages of food and fuel and caused yet another wave of business shutdowns, emigrations or cutbacks.

Harare, Bulawayo and most other cities are suffering from chronic water shortages, raising the specter of disease outbreaks. International Crisis Group senior analyst Sydney Masamvu told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Mugabe could be a tough sell for ZANU-PF in next year's presidential ballot.

Elsewhere, reflecting the mounting crisis that has already driven millions abroad, the International Organization for Migration said more than 102,000 Zimbabweans were deported from South Africa between January and June of this year.

IOM spokeswoman Erin Foster added that the United Nations organization has been receiving some 17,000 deportees a month at its Beitbridge reception center.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...