ZIMBABWE’S President Robert Mugabe, facing a wave of protests against corruption and near-economic collapse, on Wednesday came out swinging, demands by once stalwart war veteran supporters to quit.
Mugabe said he was in power by popular vote, and accused critics of plotting his ouster with his longtime Western foes.
The 92-year-old Mugabe was addressing thousands of Zimbabweans who rallied to support him, a few days after veterans called him a corrupt dictator.
However Mugabe, who has been in power for 36 years and is one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, looked off-colour, was wobbly, and drained.
He leaned for most of the time on a podium and spoke with a halting voice, struggling through his lines.
The veterans, who fought against white minority rule in Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was known before independence, turned on their ex-commander last week, saying he had “devoured” the values of the liberation struggle.
Public discontent over high inflation, unemployment and other hardships spilled out into the streets in a nationwide protest movement early this month.