#mugabe’s lavish 90th birthday plans decried as Zimbabwe struggles

via Robert Mugabe’s lavish 90th birthday plans decried as Zimbabwe struggles   theguardian.com by David Smith,19 February 2014

Costly celebration, criticised as cultism and hero worship, comes at a time of heavy job losses and slowing economic growth

Plans for a lavish $1m (£600,000) celebration of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s 90th birthday have been condemned as the country lurches towards another financial crisis.

The tribute to Africa’s oldest head of state – and second oldest in the world after Israel’s Shimon Peres – is expected to surpass last year’s party, when special gold coins were minted and Mugabe was presented with a cake said to weigh 89kg.

But the costly event will come amid heavy job losses, slowing economic growth and what the central bank describes as a “severe and persistent liquidity crunch”, reviving memories of the disastrous meltdown five years ago.

Mugabe, who continues to defy the march of time and constant health speculation, travelled to Singapore this week for cataract surgery on his left eye, according to his spokesman.

But he is expected back in time for the birthday celebration with thousands of supporters at the Rudhaka stadium in the town of Marondera on Sunday, two days after he turns 90.

Absalom Sikhosana, secretary for youth affairs in Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, told reporters recently: “This is a very special celebration. Turning 90 is no mean feat. You cannot turn 90 years when you are a womaniser, a drunkard or a chain smoker. We will be celebrating the life of a very special person on a very special occasion.”

It is a milestone in the history of the country, which has known no other leader since gaining independence from Britain in 1980, but activists and opposition politicians described the event as an extravagant waste of money when many citizens are going hungry.

“It would be inappropriate for a country’s head of state to have such a lavish and costly celebration at a time when the country is faced with the disaster of flooding and a crumbling economy,” said Dewa Mavhinga, a Zimbabwe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It’s about cultism, hero worship, institutionalising Mugabe, with sycophants around him trying to oil the wheels of patronage. There’s an entire system behind this corruption.”

Reflecting on Mugabe’s 34 years in power, Mavhinga added: “His human rights record is one that no one can honestly admire. There is nothing to celebrate about his birthday or his legacy – and there are concerns that, if something should happen to him, the country might be plunged into chaos if there is no clear mechanism for transition.”

Officially, funds for the birthday bash are being raised by the Zanu-PF youth league and not from the public purse. But Tendai Biti, who was finance minister until his party lost heavily to Zanu-PF in disputed elections last year, said: “When I was finance minister we never contributed a cent, but I’ve absolutely no doubt that they will get money from the treasury this time.”

As the economy stumbles back into trouble, long queues are returning to bank branches and companies are laying off aroundabout 300 people a week, according to trade unions.

Biti said: “The economy is going down and we need to do something about it. The government is clueless and has no idea how to manage it. Things are getting worse every day.”

David Coltart, the former education minister, noted that the economy was in far worse shape during the hyperinflation of 2008 but Mugabe’s supporters organised birthday celebrations even then. “Some people will be appalled by it but they don’t seem bothered,” he said.

The president regularly travels to Singapore for medical check-ups and, some believe, a mysterious treatment involving blood transfusions. A US diplomatic cable from 2008, leaked three years later by WikiLeaks, quoted Mugabe’s close ally and former central bank chief Gideon Gono as telling former US ambassador Christopher Dell that Mugabe had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The far east became the destination of choice for Mugabe’s medical care after the European Union imposed sanctions on him in 2002. On Monday the EU said it had lifted a visa ban and assets freeze against members ofZimbabwe‘s ruling elite with the exception of Mugabe and his wife, Grace.

If he serves his full term, Mugabe will be 94 when the next elections are due. At the funeral of his sister Bridget last month, he spoke for more than an hour and mused: “I do not know how I have lived this long. It is all in God’s hands.”

“I do respect that he’s reached 90 years,” Coltart said. “I was constantly amazed in cabinet by his vigour; he was not a doddery, senile man. Against that, the country remains in crisis and the economy is in turmoil. That needs an energetic pair of hands to deal with.”



  • comment-avatar
    Roving Ambassador 8 years ago

    Guilty of treason for single handedly destroying a nation.

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    Wezhira 8 years ago

    A whole 90 years of existence, almost 34 years of them in power and nothing to show for it. Master of a gravy train which has marvelously enriched those who prop and worship him while the rest of the populace languishes in poverty, strives to score a meal, eat one another or are in exile fighting for the next work permit or are assylum seekers. One of the dark spots in human history like it or not.

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    The reason he has been able to turn 90 is that he has been having very specialist treatment in Singapore for years. This treatment must be HUGELY costly and paid for by tax payers money or mineral wealth which Bob thinks belongs to him.

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    Tjingababili 8 years ago

    Since am home this time, I will attend the birthday bash at Marondera! Secondly, if he passed on, I will be at Heroes Acres to bury him! May his disciples enjoy the day!

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    Mukanya 8 years ago

    Lavish celebrations while the TOKWE- MUKOSI community perish !!

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    die groot wyt aap 8 years ago

    History does tend to repeat itself, Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned.

    In stark contrast to Bobby and the Wailers, during Rhodesian sanctions and petrol rationing, Ian Smith could be seen daily riding his bicycle from State House to Government House. I guess people really do get the government they deserve.

    sweet dreams comrades, sweet dreams

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    Mlimo 8 years ago

    May he choke on his feast in front of the tv so we can all see him die

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    Doris 8 years ago

    And his slavish servants are busy doing the rounds and demanding companies to cough up money towards this disgusting idea of a lavish birthday party. Makes me sick.

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    Msizeni silwelani 8 years ago

    Happy 9th decade Robert. Hope you are not alienated by the generational gap between you and your lieutanants. Wishing you many more for we/you do not know the reason the Lord has let you live this far. May the good Lord bestow wisedom synonymous with your age so you can appreciate your people wish you a deserved rest from politics and that Zimbabwe can prosper without you the Honorable.

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    Charles Chamunorwa 8 years ago

    CEOs who have not been paying wages for employees years and months will be falling over each other with expensive advertisements congratulating Mugabe for running down the country and for their hefty salaries while employees wallow in poverty. God bless him for nothing.

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    Rocks tone 8 years ago

    He is a worthless person In the whole world

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    Chivulamapot 8 years ago

    Mugarbage is dying, and fast, he’ll not have another birthday for sure. As his last, let’s celebrate the fact! God is good, the Devils awaits!

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    Nodza 8 years ago