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.