Africa

Thousands of Mugabe supporters gather in Zimbabwe's capital

  • Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe sings the national anthem before addressing the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, at the party headquarters, in Harare, Wednesday, July, 27, 2016. Zimbabwe's 92-year-old president on Wednesday said the longtime loyalists who turned against him last week should face "severe" punishment, and he vowed to stay in power for "a long time." (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

    Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe sings the national anthem before addressing the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, at the party headquarters, in Harare, Wednesday, July, 27, 2016. Zimbabwe's 92-year-old president on Wednesday said the longtime loyalists who turned against him last week should face "severe" punishment, and he vowed to stay in power for "a long time." (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)  (The Associated Press)

  • Members of Mbare Chimurenga sing and dance before the arrival of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, at the Zanu PF party headquarters, in Harare, Wednesday, July, 27, 2016. Zimbabwe's 92-year-old president on Wednesday said the longtime loyalists who turned against him last week should face "severe" punishment, and he vowed to stay in power for "a long time." (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

    Members of Mbare Chimurenga sing and dance before the arrival of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, at the Zanu PF party headquarters, in Harare, Wednesday, July, 27, 2016. Zimbabwe's 92-year-old president on Wednesday said the longtime loyalists who turned against him last week should face "severe" punishment, and he vowed to stay in power for "a long time." (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)  (The Associated Press)

  • Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, centre, gestures after addressing members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, at the party headquarters, in Harare, Wednesday, July, 27, 2016. Zimbabwe's 92-year-old president on Wednesday said the longtime loyalists who turned against him last week should face "severe" punishment, and he vowed to stay in power for "a long time." (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

    Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, centre, gestures after addressing members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, at the party headquarters, in Harare, Wednesday, July, 27, 2016. Zimbabwe's 92-year-old president on Wednesday said the longtime loyalists who turned against him last week should face "severe" punishment, and he vowed to stay in power for "a long time." (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)  (The Associated Press)

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has rallied thousands of supporters including some who fought in the 1970s independence war in response to harsh criticism he received last week from a previously loyal group of veterans.

Thousands gathered Wednesday at the headquarters of the ruling ZANU-PF party in the capital, Harare, to show support for the 92-year-old Mugabe, who has faced growing dissent in recent weeks.

Mugabe is expected to address the meeting, organized by veterans who still support him.

Members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association executive, who described him as a dictator last week, said they will not attend the meeting.

Veterans of the war against white minority-ruled Rhodesia have been a key pillar of support for Mugabe, often using violence to fight off any opposition to the president.