HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Thousands gathered in Zimbabwe on Wednesday to support President Robert Mugabe, with speakers calling for him to rule for life.
On buses, trains, trucks and by foot, Mugabe's supporters traveled to the capital, Harare, for the rally.
Speakers said 92-year-old Mugabe should rule until he dies. His wife, Grace, went a step further and described how she would like to see him rule from the grave, prompting wild cheers from the crowd.
"He is irreplaceable," Grace Mugabe said before the president took to the podium, where he accused some party officials of leaking information that slandered his wife and criticized people who say he should quit.
"They say I must go. Why do they want me to retire?" Mugabe said in a speech lasting more than one hour. "They are afraid of me."
Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party has been hit by factional infighting, some of which has involved his wife, who is becoming more politically active. Mugabe described party leaders angling to succeed him as "treasonous."
Mugabe, who has previously said he hopes to live until he is 100 years old, has led Zimbabwe since the end of white minority rule in 1980. The country is suffering from rising unemployment and a debilitating economic downturn.
Organizers from the youth league of the ruling party said the event was meant to celebrate Mugabe's leadership and to strengthen calls for him to stay in office until he dies.
Critics described the march as a waste of resources. Those critics included main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.