Robert Mugabe who has been in power in Zimbabwe for 36 years turned 92 this week and staff at his office presented him with a huge cake to mark the occasion. A bigger party will be held this weekend in the city of Masvingo featuring a huge 92kg cake and the whole party costing £550,000.
The ‘thank you’ bash for the world’s oldest head of state will see banners and billboards carry the slogan ‘Thank you, Bob, for giving us a voice to be heard’. Mugabe’s birthday has been a public celebration since 1986 and while officials are reticent to disclose costs, past festivities have been said to run up to $1million for the transportation, accommodation and feeding of thousands of guests.
The state-run Sunday Mail published a 16-page supplement to celebrate this year’s occasion with posters in the newspaper reading ‘Mugabe’s birthday is like that of Jesus Christ’.
With Zimbabwe in the midst of a drought that has left over 3million people reliant on food aid supplied mainly by the United States and the European Union, opponents of the president have criticised the lavish celebrations at a time of hardship but supporters insist they must party on.
Ruling party members and business people paid between $5000 and $100000 for a table of 10 at a sold-out dinner this weekend to raise funds for the festivities.
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-T.