Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, will mark his 92nd birthday with massive celebrations despite the country being gripped by a widespread drought.
The state broadcaster led bulletins on Sunday with good wishes for the world’s oldest head of state, who has been in power for 36 years. The state-run Sunday Mail newspaper published a 16-page supplementwhile posters promoting the special edition proclaimed “Mugabe’s birthday is like that of Jesus Christ”.
Public celebrations will be held on 27 February in the south-eastern city of Masvingo – traditionally a stronghold of Mugabe’s Zanu PF party. Mugabe’s birthday has been publicly celebrated since 1986, and although political leaders would not divulge the budget for this year’s party, in previous years the event has cost up to $1m for transportation, accommodation and food for thousands of guests.
Zimbabwe is struggling with a drought that has left more than 3 million people reliant on food aid mainly supplied by the US and the EU, according to the UN. The lavish birthday celebrations have been criticised by Mugabe’s opponents, but the president’s supporters insist the party will go ahead as planned.
Ruling party politicians and businesspeople paid between $5,000 and $100,000 for a table of 10 at a banquet on Friday night to raise funds for the birthday festivities. The dinner was sold out, said Tongai Kasukuwere, a member of the ruling Zanu-PF party’s youth wing and the event’s organiser.
“To be able to mobilise resources to honour one of Africa’s finest icons during such a difficult time proves our resilience,” said Kasukuwere. “It is not like we are taking grain meant for drought programmes to feed people at the celebrations. These are voluntary donors.”
Outside the banquet, some Zimbabweans were bitterly critical of the birthday plans. “Maybe they have no shame, openly feasting amid such hunger,” said Denias Munongoza, 27, a college graduate who sells cigarettes and condoms to feed his family. “This year the president should have said no.”
“Mugabe and his cronies are planning to feast instead of attending to the resuscitation of the comatose economy and addressing the effects and impact of the drought,” said Obert Gutu, spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party.
Robert Mugabe’s lavish birthday plans attacked as drought plagues Zimbabwe
Source: The Guardian