Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe days ago marked his 92nd birthday at a $1.1 million party organised by his supporters.
This party has however drawn criticism from his opponents who said the celebrations in the drought-stricken country was an affront to his countrymen. Mr Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader, turned 92 on February 21 and thousands of his party supporters gathered to pay tribute to the country’s only leader since independence from Britain in 1980.
He has shown no intention of stepping down. Mr Mugabe, who was accompanied by his wife, Grace, and their children, released 92 balloons and sat listening to poetry readings, songs and chants by supporters hailing him as an African icon and a visionary.
A giant cake made to look like the ancient ruins for which Zimbabwe is named was set out in a nearby marquee. School children, foreign diplomats, government ministers and security chiefs were also present.
Pupurai Togarepi, ZANU-PF’s youth leader said 50,000 people were expected to attend and defended spending $1.1 million on the birthday celebrations.
Money is not the issue here. You cannot put a price on the contribution of President Mugabe to the history and development of this nation. All these things are worth more than money,” Mr Togarepi told Reuters.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) however called the celebrations “obscene”. They said:
“The obscenity of this particular exercise is that he throws this bash not just based on public funds… but he does it in one of the worst-affected drought-stricken parts of the country.
ZANU-PF should be utterly ashamed of hosting an expensive birthday bash for their aging ruler whilst more than 90 per cent of Zimbabweans are wallowing in grinding poverty caused by decades of Robert Mugabe’s misrule and mismanagement of the economy.
The money that is being budgeted for this ill-conceived birthday bash should actually be used to import maize to avert the impending starvation in Masvingo province and other parts of the country.”
Critics blame Mr Mugabe for many of the problems facing the country.