Mugabe plans lavish birthday amid Zimbabwe drought
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s extravagant birthday plans draw harsh criticism as the country grapples with widespread drought and hunger.
According to bulletins led by Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster, public celebrations will be held on February 27 on the 92nd birthday of the president in the southeastern town of Masvingo.
The costs for this year’s event have not been announced, but over previous years up to 1 million dollars have been spent on lavish parties with thousands of guests.
The birthday plans followed Mugabe’s announcement of “a state of disaster” in areas worst hit by drought on Friday, when a fundraiser was held for the festivities, in which politicians and local businesspeople spent $5,000 to $100,000 to participate.
“Maybe they have no shame, openly feasting amid such hunger,” said a local merchant, “This year the president should have said no.”
A spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, Obert Gutu, was quoted by the Guardian as saying that, “Mugabe and his cronies are planning to feast instead of attending to the resuscitation of the comatose economy and addressing the effects and impact of the drought.”
Mugabe’s birthday has been publicly celebrated since 1986 in Zimbabwe, where over a quarter of the population is dealing with severe food shortages.
The El Nino weather phenomenon sparked a dramatic rise in the number of people going hungry in Africa. It is characterized by the warming of surface waters in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean, which is connected to drought in Southeast Asia, Africa and Australia as well as heavy rains in South America.