President Robert Mugabe, who turns 92 within the next few days, is expected to hold a lavish $800,000 birthday bash next week, in the impoverished Masvingo region hard hit by a devastating drought.
His critics say such annual birthday events do not benefit Zimbabweans.
Masvingo inhabitants generally agree that the president should channel funds for marking his birthday towards income generating projects and others meant to empower citizens so they can be self-sufficient.
They say lavish birthday parties are a waste of funds, especially in a nation facing serious social and economic problems.
Some argue that Mr. Mugabe should set up a School of Politics or Zimbabwe Development Fund to cater for various needs of the people instead of spending huge sums of money on annual lavish birthday parties.
At the same time, they believe that it is strange for him to throw a lavish birthday bash in Masvingo province, currently hit by one of the worst droughts in living memory.
Emmanuel Mutongi of Sese communal lands in Chivi District, says Mr. Mugabe's birthday parties are irrelevant and valueless to Zimbabweans.
“They are now valueless considering the challenges we are facing as Zimbabweans. To have them year in year out is doesn’t make sense. They use huge amounts of money. They should channel the money towards development. They should repair the major highways or develop other things.”
TEXT; Some residents and analysts say Mr. Mugabe has been wasting millions of dollars over the years celebrating his birthday every February 22nd at the expense of suffering masses.
Takavafira Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers’ Union (PTUZ), says President Mugabe’s birthday parties, associated with his 21st February Movement supposed to be a day to remember his date of birth, have outlived their purpose and should have been abandoned long back.
“This birthday has come to signify the suffering and extortion of money from poor villagers. This birthday is not adding value to the state and the people of Zimbabwe. All it reminds us of are unfulfilled elections promises and stealing from poor peasants. The birthday must add value to the people of Zimbabwe.”
Other Masvingo inhabitants like Samantha Guvamatanga say the President’s birthday celebrations have lost significance as struggling people are allegedly being forced to fund it.
Villagers claim that the ruling party is forcing them and teachers to pay between $1 and $7 as part of their contributions for the Zimbabwean leader.
Zhou suggests that the president and his ruling party should stop holding these birthday bashes and channel the money raised towards assisting struggling children, through the establishment of a scholarship fund, political school or university that will be named after him.
“The birthday should add value to the people of Zimbabwe. It was going to be better to invest the money in an institution that will equip people with basic living skills or rather better to form an education foundation to help the poor.
“Right now in Masvingo the current topical issue is hunger but here is a president who wants to have a bash with his cronies instead of feeding the starving people. The reality of the birthday is a continuous reminder that there is lack of corporate governance and transparency in Zimbabwe.”
Under-fire Masvingo Provincial Chairperson, Ezra Chadzamira, who heads
the Mugabe bash fundraising committee, says preparations for the event to be held at Great Zimbabwe next week are in top gear.
“Preparations are at an advanced stage we have organised food, transport and all other logistics are available to make our birthday successful for our president.”
Chadzamira, who was suspended recently by party national Political
Commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, could not be drawn to discuss the finer details of the event and local people’s claims that they are being forced to pay for the birthday bash.
The last birthday bash held in Victoria Falls cost about a million dollars.