President Robert Mugabe, a veteran of many battles turns 88 on Tuesday and a string of extravagant festivities have been lined up to “celebrate his legacy”.
Supporters of Mugabe, who has been at the helm of his Zanu PF party since 1976, and in 1980 became the Prime Minister of newly independent Zimbabwe, have spared no expenses to host a “befitting party for the illustrious son of the soil”.
As per tradition, staff at his Munumutapa offices in central Harare will hold a reception for their boss and a symbolic cake is cut and shared among workers. This is precursor to real celebrations under the 21 February Movement which is named in honour of Mugabe’s birthday.
This year, the diamond-rich Manicaland province’s town of Chipinge hosts the main celebrations, with a football tournament dubbed BOB 88 Super Cup, a beauty pageant and an all night music concert lined up. FC Platinum and Hwange FC would battle for the attractive cool $1-million prize package.
Making its début is a beauty pageant – the Miss 21st February Movement and close to 30 beauties will take to the ramp. One million dollars is believed to have been set aside to cater for all expenses. And Zanu-PF secretary for youth affairs Absolom Sikhosana is ecstatic about “this momentous occasion”.
Our dear leader, His Excellency Mugabe is turning 88
“Our dear leader, His Excellency Mugabe is turning 88. We are so proud of him and as such we would be celebrating his legacy… Mugabe is our hero, role model and above all a caring person” Sikhosana said.
But civic groupings and political parties have criticized the planned bash. Disgruntled Zimbabweans in the diaspora have organised several protests in the United States and European capitals to lobby the international community to scale up intervention efforts.
”We will be demonstrating against this with mock birthday parties in front of all South-African embassies, consulates, the Union Buildings and Parliament in peaceful protests against misrule and endemic corruption, and demanding the implementation of reforms,” said Den Moyo, co-ordinator of the Free Zimbabwe Global Movement in a statement.
Mugabe’s birthday comes as he is preparing for fresh elections in Zimbabwe. At 88, his biggest challenge is to maintain power in Zanu-PF, a party which he says is packed with “negative forces”. So far he has been doing so through letting rival factions fight each other over who would succeed him.
However, there is now a constitutional move to disqualify him. Section 6.4.2 of the draft constitution disqualifies any person who has already held the office for 10 years from standing in presidential elections.
But at the weekend, Mugabe said he was not grooming a successor as “that will cause much more divisions within the party”.
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