President Robert Mugabe is shifting his attention to the 2018 election by allegedly seeking to appease the country’s war veterans -- a constituency that has helped him win successive elections.
Party insiders told VOA Studio 7 that the succession fights in his party, the growing food crisis and a worsening economy are the biggest challenges Mr. Mugabe faces ahead of the polls.
Support from the 34,000 remaining war veterans has been shaken as factional fights in the ruling Zanu-PF party deepen and the war veterans are publicly saying they are not happy with the direction the ruling party is taking.
Some veterans were hit with teargas and water cannon in February after attempting to march to the Zanu-PF headquarters in protest against First Lady Grace Mugabe, who they have accused of stirring dissent within the party.
The cash-strapped Harare government has been forced to release US$6,4 million for school fees for liberation war veterans’ children after Mr. Mugabe made an undertaking at an indaba with the freedom fighters last week that he will put pressure on Treasury to release the funds.
As the economic crisis worsens, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has been struggling to pay salaries and bonuses for about 500,000 civil servants.
Permanent secretary for welfare services for war veterans, war collaborators, ex-political detainees and ex-restrictees Retired Brigadier General Walter Tapfumaneyi told the state-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper that war veterans have also been granted hunting concessions in Matetsi, Victoria Falls, and have taken up a 19 percent stake for bus assembling after having been offered a guarantee of USS$105 million from China for a share at Power Zim Ltd.
War veteran’s spokesman Douglas Mahiya told VOA Studio 7 that war veterans have faith in Mr. Mugabe and does not think his actions are for political expediency. "I think he has the welfare of war veterans at heart and its not just politics."
War veterans are a key pillar of support for Mr. Mugabe and have allegedly been deployed by the president to silence opposition critics.