Birthday Special: ‘No mealie meal or beef’

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai will on Saturday join President Robert Mugabe’s birthday bash in Chinhoyi which he previously criticised as wasteful amid widespread starvation.

Tsvangirai’s presence at Mugabe’s festivities is likely to draw fierce criticism from his backers who now say he lacks the courage of his convictions and has been swayed by the trappings of power.

The bash, which will be attended by Zanu PF supporters, family members, friends and children marshalled from around the country.

The revelry is being organised by the North Korea-styled 21st February Movement led by Zanu PF Youth League.

Classy cuisine and expensive drinks, including lobster, prawns, cheese, caviar, ducks, sausages, champagne, extra-refined whiskies like Johnny Walker Blue Label and Chivas Regal and Remy Martin will be served.

The list of food and drinks includes 2 000 bottles of champagne, 8 000 lobsters, 100kg of prawns 500 kg cheese, 4 000 portions caviar, 4 000 packets cream crackers, 3 000 ducks, 4 000 packets of pork sausages, 4 000 packets of borewors, 16 000 eggs, 16 000 croissants, 8 000 boxes Ferrero Rocha chocolates, 12 000 muffins, 500 bottles Johnny Walker Blue Label, Jack Daniels, Chivas 22 years, 100 bottles of Remy Martin, 4 000 chickens, 3 000 cakes and 500 bottles of olive oil.

The list however has notable exceptions written on it: “No mealie meal or beef”!

Tsvangirai’s spokesman James Maridadi yesterday confirmed his boss would attend Mugabe’s 85th birthday celebrations. Mugabe turned 85 last Saturday.  

“The invitation has been received and the prime minister will go there (to Mugabe’s birthday),” said Maridadi. “It is in the spirit of national unity that he attends in his capacity as prime minister,” Maridadi said. “It is a courteous gesture that he  responded positively to the invitation.”

Tsvangirai has in the past vociferously criticised Mugabe’s elaborate birthday parties in which large sums are spent while  ordinary people starve, saying they are wasteful and insensitive.

The budget for this year’s celebrations is at least US$200 000. Those pledging to donate money to Mugabe’s party have had to pay through their noses.

In the media category, the donation threshold is at least US$50 000, food and accommodation (US$45 000), transport and memorabilia (US$55 000) and entertainment (US$50 000).

Donations were supposed to be deposited at CBZ account No 011 220 849 300 21, swift code: COBZZWHAXXX, sort code: 6101, branch Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, Harare. The account name is 21st February Movement.

This money will be spent partying as the nation reels from hunger and disease. Aid agencies say at least five million people need food relief, while about 3 800 recently died of cholera.

The United Nations this week said it would contribute US$500 million to address the dire humanitarian crisis. It has so far raised US$85 million, but Zimbabwe’s political elite seems to be unfazed by the humanitarian disaster engulfing the nation.

Mugabe has also been criticised for spending money on overseas shopping trips for his wife Grace whom the media describe as a compulsive shopper.

Grace was recently reported to have been engaged in a dramatic public scrap with foreign journalists while in Singapore shopping on her way from Hong Kong to see her daughter who is studying there.

Glorified in Zanu PF circles as the “Dear Leader” and vilified elsewhere as a tyrant, Mugabe will celebrate his birthday which his loyalists claim to be “the most auspicious day of the nation”.

The state media has been relentless in its praise of Mugabe and his liberation struggle heroics.

However, critics dismiss the praise-singing as worship at the shrine of the “personality cult”.  

BY DUMISANI MULEYA