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Lavish Birthday Bash Planned for President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe

Published on Tuesday 23rd February 2010

Zanu PF is planning lavish birthday celebrations for President Robert Mugabe despite revelations last week that over two million Zimbabweans need urgent food aid. Mugabe, the country's only ruler since Independence in 1980, turns 86 today.

This year's ritzy celebrations kicking off on Friday night at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair include a music gala and will gobble up an estimated US$500 000, double the amount spent on his 85th birthday fete held in Chinhoyi.

Isaac Dakamela, the Zanu PF provincial chairman, was on Friday unfazed by charges that the two-day party would be "obscene", especially in a region where mass starvation is setting in.

"We expect about 15 000 people to come to Bulawayo for what we believe is a unique event," Dakamela said.

"We are celebrating the birthday of the country's president and one of the founding fathers of this nation.

"We have invited everyone, even the MDC-T itself, putting into consideration that this is a function where we celebrate the birth of a state president."

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who recently conducted a food security assessment in Matabeleland and the Midlands described the situation as "grim".

In Matabeleland South alone, 700 000 people need urgent food aid and government is battling to mobilise enough resources to import maize.

Nelson Chamisa, the MDC-T spokesperson, said despite the fact that they were in a unity government with Zanu PF; the party would not be part of the lavish celebrations.

"Instead of feasting, we should be showing compassion for our people who are faced with hunger," Chamisa said.

"They have been forced into fasting by circumstances. They are suffering and entrenched in poverty.

"For us as the MDC, to be seen joining in the feasting, wining, and dining while people across the river are fighting to retain their breath will be quite unfortunate."

Zapu spokesperson Methuseli Moyo weighed in saying the celebrations were ill-timed considering that government had failed to end the three-week old strike by civil servants and the worsening food situation.

"There is hunger in the region and for people and a political party to celebrate in such a situation is tantamount to gloating over the impoverishment of other people," Moyo said.

Edwin Ndlovu of the Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara-led MDC said it would have made more sense if the funds were donated to the needy.

Although people end up scrambling for food at such functions, last year the organisers had budgeted for "2 000 bottles of champagne (Moët & Chandon or '61 Bollinger preferred); 8 000 lobsters; 100kg of prawns; 4 000 portions of caviar; 8 000 boxes of Ferrero Rocher chocolates and 3 000 ducks," among other luxuries.

Last year Mugabe celebrated with an 85 kg birthday cake at the height of a devastating cholera outbreak.

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