Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace greet supporters of his ZANU (PF) party during the "One Million Man March", a show of support of Mugabe's rule in Harare, Zimbabwe, May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo.(reuters_tickers)
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe warned veterans of the 1970s independence war on Thursday against trying to influence the choice of who will succeed him when he eventually leaves office.
The 92-year-old leader said on March 18 that leaders of the influential Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association had indicated they wanted him to retire, something he said he would consider if they asked him directly.
On Thursday, however, he told a meeting of the ZANU-PF ruling party's central committee that the veterans should stick to looking at the welfare of men and women who fought against colonial rule and not dabble in ZANU-PF's succession politics.
"War veterans must know that it is the politics that leads the gun, not vice versa, as the war veterans are not bosses of the party," said Mugabe, a war veteran himself.
"The war veterans leaders have no business to talk about succession in the party."
Mugabe has previously said his successor must be chosen democratically and that his wife Grace will not automatically inherit the role -- seen as a warning to feuding members of ZANU-PF that he is still in charge after 36 years in power.
Mugabe said the veterans, who have publicly accused some ZANU-PF members of trying to manipulate the president by rallying behind his wife, were behaving like dissidents.
In Zimbabwe, that term revives memories of a 1980s crackdown against Mugabe's political rivals by an elite North Korean-trained brigade in which rights groups say some 20,000 civilians, most from the minority Ndebele tribe, were killed.
"Are we seeing another dissident rise and activity again?" Mugabe said. "The dissidents tried it and failed."
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Catherine Evans)