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Author Topic: Mugabe throws $1-million birthday bash  (Read 892 times)

Mugabe throws $1-million birthday bash
« on: February 28, 2015, 09:36:22 PM »

Mugabe throws $1-million birthday bash
28 Feb 2015 at 17:52

VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is celebrating his 91st birthday with elephant steaks at a $1-million bash attended by thousands of faithful party supporters.

As elephants are slaughtered for the feast on Saturday at a luxury hotel in Zimbabwe's famed Victoria Falls, critics are questioning the scale of the festivities, calling them "obscene" in a country where millions live in poverty.

Two elephants, two buffalo, two sable antelopes and five impalas were being slaughtered for a giant barbecue at the event.

Zimbabwean game farmer Tendai Musasa, a grateful beneficiary of Mugabe's controversial land reforms, donated some of the animals for the feast, the Los Angeles Times reported.

One young bull elephant, shot on Thursday, has been carved up and delivered to the organisers of the feast. A second was to be handed out to members of the community after being butchered.

"We regard him as our father, our provider, our hero. We regard him as a very courageous man," said Musasa.

Mugabe will also be given a trophy lion and a trophy crocodile — the giant reptile is his totem. The animals have an estimated value of about US$140,000.

The president's Zanu-PF party has said that the money for the event was raised from individual and company donations.

A Zimbabwean man reads a story about President Robert Mugabe's birthday in the state-owned newspaper The Herald, in Harare. (AP Photo)
Members of the European Parliament condemned the extravagance, noting that the EU had recently approved US$270 million in aid to support Zimbabwe's agriculture and health sectors, marking the resumption of direct funding after more than 10 years.

"The slaughter of two endangered elephants is a middle finger toward the West. With that [Mugabe] clearly shows that the willingness for political reform is an urban legend," the MEPs said in a statement this week.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, is the world's oldest leader.

While he is hailed by many of his African peers as a liberation hero, critics say that over the following decades he became a dictator who turned the "breadbasket of southern Africa" into a basket case, trampling human rights, justice and democracy.

Mugabe's violent seizure of white-owned farms triggered food shortages and hyper-inflation, while Europe and the United States imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe over elections seen as rigged.

In an interview marking his birthday, Mugabe admitted that he blundered by giving ill-equipped black farmers vast tracts of farmland under his controversial land reforms. "I think the farms we gave to people are too large. They can't manage them," he said.

He also shrugged off questions over an incident earlier this month in which he missed a step and stumbled from a podium.

"I have yet to come across to a person who has not fallen. It was a slight fall, missing a step," he told state-controlled television.

Mugabe also said he was still in charge of the country and that his wife Grace was not the “power behind the throne" as some were claiming.

He denied that he was behind the rise of Grace, 49, to head the Women’s League in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF).

"I've never sanctioned anyone, not even my sisters," Mugabe said in the interview. "I will not push anyone. She came to me and said 'the women want me to lead them' and I said, 'It's up to you'."

A one-time presidential secretary who was married to a former air force pilot and Beijing-based diplomat, Grace Marufu married Mugabe in 1996.

Zimbabweans who criticise her extravagant lifestyle call her "Gucci Grace" and "Dis Grace".

Although an individual is not allowed to own more than one farm under the country's land redistribution laws, Grace Mugabe reportedly owns several.

Zanu-PF re-elected Mugabe as its leader last December, automatically making him the candidate in the next election in 2018 when he will be 94.