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He is a tyrant who has rendered much of his country destitute. But Robert Mugabe will celebrate his 88th birthday next week with a no-expense-spared party.
The Zimbabwean president will be joined by hundreds of guests from his ruling Zanu-PF at the extravaganza in the eastern city of Mutare.
Provinces around the country have been forced to dip into their coffers to help fund the bash, which is expected to cost around $1-million.
The junket is expected to fuel anger in Zimbabwe, where many families have to scavenge for food and millions remain out of work following years of economic and political strife.
The event will feature a giant birthday cake, multi-course meals, a music gala featuring top Zimbabwean artists, a beauty pageant and a soccer tournament dubbed the ‘Bob 88 Super Cup’, according to the South African Mail & Guardian newspaper.
Mugabe’s birthday plans have been dubbed the ‘21st February Movement’ by his supporters to mark the date in 1924 on which the tyrant was born.
The respected weekly newspaper reported: ‘Over the past two months the provinces have been chipping in with “donations” to make the big day a memorable one for Mugabe.’
He has held power for three decades since Zimbabwe gained its independence from Britain in 1980.
During that period he has turned the once prosperous state into a economic basket case, forcing millions to flee and subjecting many of those who remain to live in poverty.
The tyrant has also been accused of orchestrating horrific human rights abuses and state-sponsored murders to maintain his grip on power.
His actions have turned him into an international pariah, led to Zimbabwe’s ejection from the Commonwealth and seen his government subjected to crippling international sanctions.
Despite his tarnished image, Mugabe has traditionally celebrated his birthday with a party and rally for Zanu-PF members. But this year the anniversary will also be marked by a string of demonstrations around the world against his rule.
Campaigners plan to hold protests outside Zimbabwean embassies next Tuesday in Britain, America, South Africa and several European capitals. They have been organised by campaigners on behalf of the five million Zimbabweans now living overseas.
Mugabe’s birthday comes as the tyrant is believed to be preparing for fresh elections in Zimbabwe.
The Zanu-PF leader claimed victory following a disputed presidential poll in 2008 but was forced into a power-sharing government a year later with Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
The two parties have maintained a shaky coalition since February 2009 but have stalled in attempts to draw up a new constitution for the country.
In recent months Mugabe has repeatedly signalled his intention to call fresh elections in the belief he can secure a new mandate to rule alone.
It is thought the elderly leader, who is reportedly suffering from prostate cancer, wants to shore up his party’s control before handing over to a successor. - Daily Mail