PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe — who turned 89 yesterday — is expected to celebrate his birthday in style this year as organisers keep introducing new innovations with each passing year with the assistance of a motley group of supporters that range from genuine well-wishers to political hangers-on.
Report by Elias Mambo
Organisers have opened a new bag of tricks that they hope will make the event more colourful as they continue their attempts to build an aura of mystery, power and awe around the ageing leader whose health is deteriorating.
Mugabe’s birthday cake, already enormous, will increase in weight by one more kg to 89kgs.
In monetary terms this represents US$1 000 for every year the octogenarian leader has lived, with sources revealing the birthday cake would cost Mbada Diamonds US$89 000, excluding the side cakes which normally add colour and stature to the main cake.
To put the cost into perspective, this is the equivalence of a brand new Grand Jeep Cherokee: with US$89 000 one is assured to drive away in the latest 3,6L V6 overland off-road adventure Group 11 model Grand Cherokee from a local car dealer.
In 2012, Mugabe celebrated his 88th birthday with a huge confectionary crocodile shaped cake complete with icing and candles which weighed 88 kgs representing a kg for every year of Mugabe’s life. In addition to the crocodile, representing Mugabe’s clan name Gushungo, there was a matching silver version, an 88kg cake in the shape of local mountains, another representing Victoria Falls and a giant ice cream cake.
About 60 cattle were slaughtered to feed thousands of supporters who thronged Sakubva Stadium in Mutare for the celebrations. Top government officials and other VIP’s were treated to sumptuous three course meals at two hotels.
This year the bash is expected to attract thousands of people at Chipadze Stadium in the Zanu PF stronghold of Bindura. Mugabe is likely to use this event to launch his re-election campaign and a “Yes” vote for the referendum on the new constitution scheduled for March 16.
However, the organising committee is facing challenges in raising the US$600 000 needed to fund the celebrations in the wake of extortion charges recently levelled against Zanu PF Manicaland provincial officials.
But Zanu PF youth secretary Absalom Sikhosana said preparations were on course.
“We have raised a substantial amount for the event. Everything is moving according to plan and it is our hope that we will meet our targets,” said Sikhosana.
Zanu PF has asked its 10 provinces to contribute towards the function while donors are stampeding to sponsor the event.
US$200 000 was raised within 15 minutes during a fund-raising gala for the Bob 89 Super Cup with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and the Air Force of Zimbabwe contributing close to US$160 000, while several other private sector players contributed the difference.