“You just go to Zimbabwe now and ask the people whether I should stand down. They will be angry with you.”
These were the remarks of President Robert Mugabe in an interview with Japanese journalists Tuesday as he continued his visit to the country.
He also appeared to suggest that demands for an end to his lengthy stay in power were not coming from Zimbabweans.
“… if they don’t like my long stay in power they should criticise my people, I do not vote for myself into power,” the State owned Herald quotes him as saying.
But the 92-year-old leader admitted at a recent rally in Bindura that some in his ruling Zanu PF party and its surrogate war veterans’ movement want him to step down.
Concerned about their actual intentions, Mugabe reacted firmly when the war veterans tried to gather for a meeting in Harare last month, dousing them with teargas and then washing them down with water cannon.
But realizing that the rebellion had not been put down, a crunch meeting has now been called for April 7 with the veteran leader daring the disgruntled former fighters to openly speak their minds.
The meeting has however, been publicly pitched as aimed at discussing the veterans’ welfare issues.
“Nonsense,” a party official told NewZimbabwe.com at the weekend.
“The War Veterans Act details the benefits the former fighters, their widows and children are entitled to. As he did with the civil servants’ bonuses, Mugabe simply needs to instruct treasury to pay them what they are due.
“You don’t need to call a national meeting including security services chiefs to discuss what is clear under the law.”
The party official added: “The fact is that Mugabe realizes the scale and depth of the rebellion against his rule.
“That is why he promptly apologised for teargassing the veterans. He will use the April 7 meeting to try and buy the disgruntled veterans and the security services chiefs off.
“We wait to see whether he succeeds.”
Meanwhile, in Japan Mugabe insisted that, health permitting, he would run again for office in 2018 when the next elections are due.
He explained: “At the moment I am the President that’s why (I am here). Do you see me as not fit? Why not contest two years later?
“Two years later is no time but only God knows what will happen in two years’ time, 2018, I don’t know, it will depend.
“If I am fit enough, yes, but If I am not fit enough I will not. My people will want me to be a candidate and they have already nominated me as a candidate for 2018.”
Mugabe is visiting Japan at the invitation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who considers the Zimbabwean leader’s influence in Africa key to helping Japan counter Chinese influence on the continent.