Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Saturday celebrated his 93rd birthday in style, throwing a lavish party estimated to have cost US$2 million in a country, where at least half of the population is said to be starving and therefore surviving on food aid.
The party was held in Matabeleland, in western Zimbabwe.
Wearing dark glasses and a multicoloured jacket featuring images of himself in younger days, Mugabe was surrounded by his friends, family and thousands of vociferous supporters of his ZANU-PF party, who kept cheering him on.
The celebrations have proven a distraction from discussions in the country about the health of the long-time president. Mugabe, a former rebel leader, has been in power since 1980’s independence from Britain.
He reportedly spent the majority of the festivities sitting impassively, as speakers praised his leadership and delegates from ruling parties in Botswana, Namibia, Angola and Zambia kneeled at his chair to congratulate him. At one point, he raised his fist but mostly he rested his head on one hand as his wife adjusted his glasses.
The celebrations were held against the backdrop of the Southern African nation’s severe cash crisis and economic meltdown.
Zimbabweans are facing a long list of difficulties, including a medical doctors’ strike over poor working conditions and low medicine supplies, high levels of unemployment, rising food prices, massive human rights violations, a critical drought, state corruption, and a bitter succession battle within the ruling party, among others.
While the majority of the people wants him to retire immediately, the veteran leader still enjoys some support, especially in rural areas. One of the organisers of the event, Kudzai Chipanga, compared Mugabe to Jesus Christ. “We view President Mugabe as our local savior, our liberator,” Chipanga said.
(Courtesy of DW, final editing by Issa Sikiti)
Photo: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe with his wife Grace Mugabe at his 93rd birthday party. Credit: DW/AP