Thousands of hungry villagers on Saturday walked up to 20 kilometers to attend President Robert Mugabe’s lavish birthday party at the Great Zimbabwe Monuments in Masvingo province, not because they wanted to honor the nonagenarian leader but to get a decent meal in the drought-ravaged region.
Some claim that the president did not say how his government is tackling the drought.
Most of the people, who spoke to Studio 7 while attending the birthday bash, said they wanted to at least eat a decent meal on Saturday as they are in most cases failing to have a single meal per day.
Some ended up stashing the food in plastic bags in order to take it back home for their hungry children, who could not walk all the way to Great Zimbabwe.
According to the state-controlled media, the ruling Zanu PF party slaughtered 53 beasts and sourced about 300 kilograms of processed beef and hundreds of kilograms of game meat for 50,000 guests. To cream it all, there were also lots of desserts and other goodies supplied by the First Family’s Alpha and Omega Dairy.
This is what forced Tonderayi Mutema of Murinye communal lands to walk for about 20 kilometers to Great Zimbabwe.
Mutema said he brought his family with him to the birthday bash.
“The party was okay we came from long distances but not to celebrate the birthday as much but to eat. We feel today is the chance for us to have a proper meal since we had not been able to get it for a long time due to hunger.”
Some villagers had to stampede for left overs, which they took home saying they would find ways of preserving the food so that they can depend on it in the next few days.
One of the villagers, who declined to be named in fear of being victimized, said it was unlikely that people were going to stay away from such a lavish birthday as they do not know where the next meal will come from.
“Today we have come to eat so much, we are suffering in Zimbabwe we want to eat today, this is the only opportunity so they have to give us more food to eat, we will not waste such an opportunity.”
Some people in Masvingo province are now surviving on wild fruits due to severe food shortages caused by the current drought. They were expecting Mr. Mugabe to address the hunger situation in the region.
Tsisti Muduma of Mashete Village in Muchakata communal lands said she is disappointed that the president did not talk much about the hunger situation in Masvingo.
“The birthday bash was okay the food was okay but we came here to be addressed on the food shortages and drought but it wasn’t fully addressed he just concentrated in political instability
in his party.”
President Mugabe in his concluding remarks promised villagers that no one will die of hunger as his party and government were making efforts to feed everyone.
“I would want to end by saying it has been a bad year, the agricultural season has not gone well so we have to ask for help as we seek maize and other grains, so we will do our best, food will come but it’s not enough. I think it’s a case of transport. We don’t want to hear of people dying the old and the disabled must be a priority.”
But villagers were not convinced about these remarks saying the president did not give specifics on how his government would provide food to the hungry.
President Mugabe said Zanu PF youths should stop insulting his wife, Grace, who recently attacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa for allegedly attempting to topple her husband.
Mr. Mugabe chided some members of his party’s youth league and other youths calling themselves Save Zimbabwe Campaign for denigrating the name of the first lady.
The youths were recently quoted as saying Mrs. Mugabe is promoting factionalism in the party as she has linked with a faction of the party calling itself generation 40, which reportedly wants her to succeed the 92 year-old president. The other faction, known as Team Lacoste, is allegedly led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mr. Mugabe also attacked Zanu PF members for supporting various factions.
Studio 7 reached Zanu PF central committee member, Joseph Tshuma, who said Zimbabweans are forgetting that the birthday bash, also known as the 21st February Movement, is a youth function and therefore what president Mugabe said was directed at the youth.
Studio 7 also reached independent political analyst, Dinizulu Macaphulana, who pointed out that President Mugabe’s speech at his birthday bash showed a man who is more interested in his personal well-being than Zimbabweans.