Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party is staging what it calls a "million-man march" on Friday in support of his re-election, taking charge of a campaign that was previously in the hands of liberation war veterans.
ZANU-PF Political Commissar Elliot Manyika announced that Mr. Mugabe will address the marchers at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, a populous suburb of Harare that in March saw a deadly confrontation between the opposition and police, leading to the arrest and beating of opposition leaders, sparking international outrage.
It was unclear whether those in the ruling party who selected the venue appreciated the symbolism of staging the Mugabe re-election rally in Highfield.
Though the march is intended to prove Mr. Mugabe is strongly supported, sources in the ruling party say he was obliged to give way to fierce internal pressure for the party to take over organization of the march from the war veterans who have been staging such demonstrations in the provinces under the leadership of Jabulani Sibanda.
Sources in the ruling party said a number of top ZANU-PF officials told Mr. Mugabe they would refuse to join the rally if it was directed by Sibanda, who has acquired numerous political enemies, especially in the Matabeleland provinces.
Analyst Glen Mpani told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that President Mugabe had to acquiesce as he is fighting for his political survival.