Despite his age and speculation over his health – word is that he falls asleep during cabinet meetings – Mugabe has declared himself eager for the polls. To relinquish power now, after more than three decades in power, would be “an act of cowardice”, he said recently.
Not everyone will be celebrating the president’s birthday. The largesse was condemned by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), whose power-sharing agreement with Zanu-PF is perpetually under strain.
“This is a total waste of taxpayers’ money and typical of the attitude of Zanu-PF,” said Douglas Mwonzora, an MDC spokesman. “Right now we are faced with a situation of food shortages in some parts of the country. This needs to be addressed and Zanu-PF isn’t doing that. Instead they are spending a million dollars on the birthday of an 88-year-old president.
“The money could be spent on food and books. Mugabe is totally out of touch with reality. He has a bloated ego and he thinks Zimbabweans like what he is doing.”
Mugabe’s example compares unfavourably with that of other countries, Mwonzora said. “I think he is the only president in the world who spends so much money on his birthday. I don’t think President Obama or Prime Minister Cameron do it. Mugabe is the president of a poor African country and should be condemned.”