Mugabe plans 90th birthday party as millions starve
Celebrations expected to cost £600,000 as millions of Zimbabweans go hungry
ROBERT MUGABE'S 90th birthday party is expected to surpass even last year's lavish celebrations despite the country's continuing economic woes.
The event, which is expected to cost more than £600,000, comes as heavy job losses cause pain across the country and at a time when more than two million Zimbabweans are in need of famine relief.
Last year, special-edition gold coins were minted for Mugabe's 89th birthday and he was presented with a cake the size of a bed, weighing 89kg. A £125,000 football tournament was held in his honour and the governor of the nation's central bank gave him 89 cows as a present, reports The Times.
As Mugabe turns 90 tomorrow, his Zanu-PF party has insisted the landmark birthday is an opportunity to celebrate the life of a "very special person on a very special occasion". But activists have described it as an extravagant waste of money.
Dewa Mavhinga, a Zimbabwe researcher at Human Rights Watch, told The Guardian that 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".
Officially, funds for the party are being raised by the Zanu-PF youth league and not from the public purse. But Tendai Biti of the opposition MDC, who was finance minister until his party lost heavily to Zanu-PF in disputed elections last year, said he has "absolutely no doubt that they will get money from the treasury".
Local media claim youth league officials have also been demanding cash from members of the public, including police officers and teachers.
Mugabe, the oldest head of state in Africa, travelled to Singapore this week, reportedly for cataract surgery on his left eye. He is expected to return in time for the birthday celebration with thousands of supporters at the Rudhaka stadium in the town of Marondera on Sunday.