WASHINGTON DC —
President Robert Mugabe turns 90 Friday with his party planning a lavish birthday party for him at Rudhaka Stadium in Marondera, Mashonaland East, Saturday.
The party was frantically trying to raise $1 million for the bash. Analysts say the amount is staggering, adding it shows Zanu PF is insensitive to millions of Zimbabweans currently reeling under economic hardships.
Mr. Mugabe, in an interview to be aired by state television on his birthday but has been carried by the state-controlled Herald newspaper, took aim at colleagues in his party campaigning to take over him. He accused them of fanning divisions in the party, telling them there was no need for Zanu PF to start discussing his succession.
Deputy President Joice Mujuru and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa reportedly lead factions in Zanu PF wishing to take over from Mr. Mugabe, who many expected to retire before the end of his current term that ends in 2018.
“Why should succession be discussed when it was not due,” asked the President. “Is it due?’’
Mr. Mugabe said he will retire on his own terms, adding he did not want to leave his party in tatters. He also hinted that those angling to succeed him risk being expelled from the party.
The Zimbabwe President is currently in Singapore for an eye operation, according to his office.
He regularly travels to Singapore for medical check-ups. In a leaked US diplomatic cable from 2008, former central bank chief Gideon Gono is quoted as telling former US Ambassador Christopher Dell that Mr. Mugabe had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute executive director Pedzisai Ruhanya said the president should have used his birthday bash to announce his retirement.
“Generally, if you look at his life so far it is a life of controversy. He has his admirers but he also has those who do not like his rule,” he said. “So I think it would be time for him to look at that history and at least leave Zimbabweans with something if he could retire now and allow those in his political party to take over.”