50,000 people attended ceremony, feasted on 50 cattle
Listened to speeches and songs in his praise,
Giant cake in the shape of the ancient ruins that the country was named after.
The cake, per tradition, weighed 92 kg (more than 200 pounds), one kilogram for each of his 92 years
Saturday, in one of Zimbabwe’s most stricken provinces for drought and hunger, Mugabe staged his biggest birthday celebration yet this week.
At the $800,000 celebration in Masvingo, southeastern Zimbabwe, Mugabe listened to speeches and songs in his praise, before cutting a giant cake in the shape of the ancient ruins that the country was named after. The cake, per tradition, reportedly weighed 92 kg (more than 200 pounds), one kilogram for each of his 92 years of age.
The day before his birthday bash, Mugabe donated 300 cows to the African Union Foundation, a newly created development arm of Africa’s 54-country alliance. The foundation aims to fund African development in science, technology and agriculture and enlist public and private sector contributions across the continent, stressing the importance of African self-reliance.
Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP
News of Mugabe’s donation to the African Union comes as Zimbabwe suffers from drought and widespread hunger.
Zimbabwean opposition leaders were furious at Mugabe’s lavish celebrations.
“Our dear leader is preparing a big birthday bash … among starving people,” opposition politician Simba Makoni told local media. “How cruel and uncaring at a time the chiefs and headmen in those areas are appealing for food assistance, and for ways of saving their dying livestock.”
An opposition supporter posted a photo on Twitter this week purporting to show people in struggling Masvingo province protesting the party, holding banners reading “We want jobs, not bash.”
One Zimbabwean economist, John Robertson, estimated that the $800,000 spent on Saturday’s party could pay a year’s school fees for 1,000 disadvantaged children.
‘Critics blame Mr Mugabe for many of the problems facing the country.
They say his policies, including the seizures and redistribution of white-owned commercial farms, drove one of Africa’s most promising economies into nearly a decade of deep recession until 2008 that cut its output almost in half.’
Event organizers defended the lavish party, which they said Mugabe supporters had funded. “It is not like we are taking grain meant for drought programs to feed people at the celebrations,” said party organizer Tongai Kasukuwere, according to The Associated Press.
Mugabe took the opportunity to make an hour-long speech in which he rejected foreign aid, despite recently declaring a state of disaster in parts of the country, and bizarrely suggested food assistance would be linked to LGBT rights.
“If aid, as I understand, is to be given on the basis that we accept the principle of gay marriages, then let that aid stay were it is,” he said. “We don’t want it. It is rotten aid, filthy aid and we won’t have anything to do with it.”
Mugabe blames his country’s economic woes on foreign sanctions. Critics say his government’s economic mismanagement and campaign of seizing land from white farmers is largely to blame. The country’s economy shrunk 50 percent during nearly a decade of recession before 2008, causing hyperinflation and widespread poverty.
Despite his advancing years, Mugabe has no intention of giving up his title as the world’s oldest leader. “As long as I am alive I will rule the country,” he vowed last month.