Zimbabwe's Mnangagwa rallies war veterans ahead of vote

Emmerson Mnangagwa (File: AP)
Emmerson Mnangagwa (File: AP)

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday urged war veterans to play a central role in campaigning for the ruling Zanu-PF party ahead of elections due in July or August.

The elections will be the first in Zimbabwe without Robert Mugabe who was forced from office last year, ending his authoritarian rule over the country since independence from Britain in 1980.

The veterans of the 1970s liberation struggle have been a vital cog in the Zanu-PF party, helping Mugabe to hold onto power and often being accused of violence during elections and over land seizures.

Mnangagwa - himself a war veteran - called for them "to go out full throttle in our huge numbers and campaign for a thunderous victory."

"We must win the hearts and minds of our people," he said, addressing about 5 000 veterans in the capital Harare.

Mnangagwa also pledged to improve the welfare of veterans by increasing their monthly allowances from the current $206.

Zimbabwe's past elections have been marred by violence and fraud.

But Mnangagwa, 75, has vowed to hold a free and fair vote that would boost his efforts to re-engage with international donors and bring in much-needed foreign investment.

Mnangagwa is a long-time Zanu-PF veteran who was one of Mugabe's closest allies before they fell out last year.

At the polls, he will face opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, 40, of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who took over his party's leadership after the death of Morgan Tsvangirai.

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