Zimbabweans are divided over President Robert Mugabe’s lavish birthday party to be held Saturday in Masvingo province with Zanu PF supporters saying this is a time to pay tribute to the Zimbabwean leader, who played a key role in liberating the country from the yoke of colonialism.
Opponents on the other hand, say there is no reason for the celebrations as Zimbabwe is currently facing serious food shortages due to a devastating drought fueled by the El Nino weather phenomenon.
According to the state-controlled media, already the ruling Zanu PF party has sourced 53 beasts of the targeted 60 cattle, about 300 kilograms of processed beef and hundreds of kilograms of game meat for the expected 50,000 guests at the Great Zimbabwe Monument in Masvingo province.
Nearly a million dollars was spent on President Mugabe’s birthday bash held last year in the resort town of Victoria Falls.
Is it proper for Zanu PF to throw an $800,000 birthday party for the president when the nation is also experiencing serious social and economic problems?
For perspective, VOA Studio 7 reached Zanu PF legislator Joseph Tshuma, and George Mkhwanazi of the People’s Democratic Party led by former Finance Minister Tendi Biti.
Tshuma said there is nothing wrong with holding a lavish party for Mr. Mugabe.
“This is other people’s initiative for their sole agenda of a youth movement which they feel must be part of the equation and so I don’t know why somebody must be worried about someone else’s agenda.”
Mkhwanazi immediately shot back saying, “ … It is a waste of time in Zimbabwe, it is a waste of money to use such kind of resources to pamper an old man of 92 in a country where the citizens are starving.
“You know, southern African is faced with a very serious drought and you have a president who purports to care for his people, you know, allowing himself to be pampered at the cost of a million dollars or so in a mere birthday. You know, that is a scandal and must not be allowed to happen.”
Reacting to these remarks, Tshuma said Mkhwanazi is ill-informed about how the country is handling the current dry spell as he is living in South Africa and as a result does not know that the president has declared the crippling drought a state of national disaster.
“…He (President Mugabe) has declared a state of emergency towards this hunger issue, resources have been mobilized and as I speak grain is being purchased from countries with that (excess) grain. The money that is being used for the birthday bash is not coming from any of the public coffers. It is money coming from private individuals who accept the calls for the 21st February Movement because it’s not just about celebrating the president’s 92 years on his earth, it’s also about the youth themselves, the values that are being imparted on the youth by the president.”
Mkhwanazi was not pleased with Tshuma’s suggestions that the money being used for the birthday bash was sourced from private individuals.
“Actually that’s a height of insanity to say that the money is sourced from individuals. You know that in Zimbabwe politics and economy are closely linked. The people who are purported to be providing these kinds of monies these are people who have been at the helm of destroying the country.”
He further said, “ … To say that there is value in the 21st February Movement is to lose it totally. Here is a man who has nothing to offer …A man who has nothing to teach anyone in terms of leadership … A man who has presided over a country’s crumbling economy to an extent that the country is unable to face a drought situation.”
He also said Zimbabwe was facing an economic crisis that was caused by what he claimed was an incompetent ruling party government.
“And this is a man who has nothing in terms of emulation by the youths because at 92, he has been in power for more than 35 years, almost 40 years, which is the time that the children of Israel spent in the desert, he is still in power and has totally run out of ideas of how to run a country.”
Tshuma dismissed Mkhwananzi as a person who does not even understand political processes in Zimbabwe.
“I think Mr. Mkhwanazi is very clueless when he speaks about President Robert Gabriel Mugabe. He probably doesn’t know him maybe because he stays out of the country. He must come back here and understand the fundamentals of Zimbabwe.”
He said Mr. Mugabe is “very much respected” in Africa nations and others for fighting for the liberation of the country and other social and economic ills.
President Mugabe celebrates his birthday every year with supporters organizing festivities at a selected venue to praise the ageing Zimbabwean leader, who has been in power since the country attained independence from British rule in 1980.