HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe's government says a surprise statement by the country's independence war veterans attacking President Robert Mugabe is traitorous and treasonous.
In the government's first public response to the statement issued Thursday by Mugabe's traditionally loyal supporters, the ministry of war veterans said late Friday it was investigating the origins of the statement and that the authors should be held accountable.
The government statement urged all war veterans to remain loyal to the 92-year-old Mugabe, who has been in power since the country won independence from white rule in 1980.
The veterans' strongly worded statement, in which they called Mugabe dictatorial and said they will not campaign for him again, was their first significant break with the president, whom they have been quick to defend even with violence.
Representatives of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association were not immediately available for comment Saturday.
The surprise revolt by Mugabe's aging corps of loyalists came after nationwide anti-government protests organized via social media. Many in Zimbabwe are frustrated by a rapidly deteriorating economy, a currency crisis and alleged corruption.
The veterans' group, whose members are in their 60s and older, blamed the southern African country's economic crisis on "bankrupt leadership," and it accused Mugabe of corruption: "This rot needs to be uprooted, and right now."
Earlier this week, the world's oldest head of state responded to the recent anti-government protests, telling critics to leave Zimbabwe if they are unhappy with conditions at home.