Harare (AFP) - The Zimbabwe government on Saturday denounced as "treasonous" a statement by war veterans berating President Robert Mugabe and his regime for brutal attacks on his opponents.
In a rare public rebuke of the long-time president, the war veterans issued a statement on Thursday decrying Mugabe's "dictatorial tendencies" and for presiding over a declining economy.
The veterans of the country's 1970s liberation war and staunch allies of Mugabe vowed they would not support him if he sought re-election in 2018.
But the government rebutted the statement saying it had launched an investigation to establish its origins and that those behind it will be brought to justice.
"The government dismisses that traitorous so-called communique which is treasonous in the constitutional democracy that Zimbabwe is with utter disdain and all the contempt it deserves," secretary of the War Veterans ministry Walter Tapfumaneyi said in a statement.
He urged "all patriotic veterans of the liberation struggle to remain loyal to the president and to the party, to remain disciplined and principled while being wary of the divisive machinations of Zimbabwe's detractors."
Opposition to Mugabe's rule has grown in recent months as the country's economic troubles mount while his Zanu-PF party is in turmoil over his succession.
Starting in 2000, the war veterans led seizures of white-owned commercial farms in what Mugabe said was a reversal of imbalances from the colonial era.
The war veterans statement came in the wake of a surge of public demonstrations that has forced many onto the streets in recent weeks, triggered by an economic crisis that has left banks short of cash and the government struggling to pay its workers.