Supporters of President Robert Mugabe are planning the ‘best’ ever birthday party for him next month, when he will turn 92.
Preparations for the party, to be held in Masvingo, appear to be in full swing, despite rumours that the longtime Zimbabwe leader had a heart attack earlier this week while on holiday.
Reports indicate a deadline had been set for mobilising resources for the event, traditionally one of the biggest on Zimbabwe’s yearly calendar.
A fundraising target hasn’t yet been set. But last year’s birthday party was held in the plush Victoria Falls and cost an estimated US$1million.
Masvingo and surrounding areas have been badly hit by drought and reports on Tuesday said Masvingo province had suffered the country’s worst cattle losses, with about 5 000 prized cows dead.
Traditionally officials – and others – donate cattle to feed party-goers.
Some locals are critical of the ruling party’s desire to hold a birthday party this year given the circumstances.
“With the dire situation on the back of this drought, surely any sensible leader would channel these funds towards relief efforts,” tweeted @MunesuShoko.
Another Zimbabwean tweeted that civil servants had still not been paid their bonuses.
But organiser, Ezra Chadzamira, was quoted as saying that Zanu-PF members from Masvingo wanted to host the party ‘in style’.
“We want to make the event the best of them all,” Chadzamira said,
Many Zimbabweans have been unimpressed with feverish speculation – almost all of it outside the country – that the longtime leader had collapsed while on holiday in the Far East
Former information minister, Jonathan Moyo, who is now the minister of higher education, said on Twitter late on Tuesday that January traditionally saw ‘lies’ told about Mugabe.
Mugabe, one of Africa’s longest serving leaders after 36 years in power, said last year that it was ‘the Lord’ who had let him live so long.