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Mugabe, War Veterans Set to Meet as Factionalism Ravages Zanu PF

FILE: Zimbabwean war veterans who had gathered to demonstrate against a faction within the ruling Zanu PF party, reportedly led by the First Lady Grace Mugabe, vent their anger after they were dispersed by police using tear gas and water cannons in Harare, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Zimbabwe's war veterans, including commanders of the armed forces, are set to hold a no-holds barred meeting with President Robert Mugabe amid calls for him to step down.

Mr. Mugabe told his supporters Friday that some of the war veterans want him to step down despite winning the last presidential election in which he beat his bitter rival, former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangiriai.

Tsvangiriai still claims that the election was allegedly rigged by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, in favour of Mr. Mugabe, who has been in power for more than 35 years.

The ruling party maintains that the elections were free and fair.

Despite his controversial win, Mr. Mugabe today finds himself fighting to quell internal squabbles in Zanu PF pitting two factions - one said to be led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa being backed by war veterans of the liberation struggle of the 1970s, and another by his wife, Grace.

Mnangagwa's so-called Team Lacoste and Mrs. Mugabe's group comprising Young Turks calling themselves Generation 40, appear to be realizing that the 92 year old president's rule may be almost coming to an end.

Indications are that President Mugabe's meeting with war veterans, scheduled for early next month, is expected to bring out the political bitterness among war veterans. Some want him to step down saying he is no longer following the principles of the party, which brought independence to the southern African nation.

Zanu PF pledged at independence to promote freedom and democracy based on one person, one vote, but some disgruntled war veterans believe that this has been seriously compromised by members of the Generation 40, which is allegedly seeking to entrench a Mugabe political dynasty as it allegedly wants his wife to succeed him.

Mrs. Mugabe has repeatedly said she is not interested in the presidential post. Critics say her political life will end as soon as Mr. Mugabe is out of power as she allegedly lacks the political stamina to led Zimbabwe.

The recent firing of War Veterans Minister Chris Mutsvangwa has unsettled war veterans, who were on the receiving end recently when police with baton sticks and water cannons descended on them when they wanted to hold an indaba in Harare to discuss, among other issues, President Mugabe's succession.

While they are still dusting themselves from that violent encounter, President Mugabe on Friday said he does not understand why some of the war veterans want him to step down as he was democratically elected in 2013.

As a result, according to the state controlled Herald newspaper, they have to express these feeling at the proposed meeting, which will be attended by Defence Forces chief Constantine Chiwenga, former Five Brigade Commander and Airforce Commander Vice Marshall Perence Shiri, army commander General Phillip Valerie Sibanda, Prisons chief General Paradzai Zimondi, Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri and several others.

Some of the army chiefs allegedly want Mnangagwa, who has been Mr. Mugabe's right hand man for many years, to succeed the president. Several junior officers are believed to be supporting Generation 40's presidential choice, Grace Mugabe.

Mrs. Mugabe leads the powerful Women's League. Her recent attacks on Mnangagwa and war veterans are said to have angered some securocrats. Unconfirmed reports say the president met with the army commanders following public claims by his wife that Mnangagwa was hatching a plan being backed by war veterans to unseat the president.