Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s birthday is around the corner, and preparations are being made to mark the event in grand style with a party that will see 150 cows slaughtered to feed up to 100,000 guests.
Mugabe, who is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, would turn 93 on February 21.
On Tuesday, Matobo North MP Never Khanye announced the plan to gather 150 cows for President Mugabe’s birthday celebration through donations from farmers, The Herald reported. While he noted that farmers should donate willingly, he pointed out the consequences of not doing so.
“We are appealing to well-wishers to do so willingly and not come again tomorrow and say we were forced. All A2 farmers who got offer letters must donate a beast each for this event and those that will fail we will take it that they don’t appreciate what the President has done for them,” he said.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe celebrated his 92nd birthday in February with a massive cake. pic.twitter.com/ZVG19ik8np
— Boateng Duka Kofi (@DukaKofi) December 31, 2016
A2 farmers are those who received large farmlands from the government after the repossession of land from white farmers under Zimbabwe’s widely criticized land reform program. The average size of an A2 farmland is about 318 hectares.
Plans for President Robert Mugabe’s birthday are being made as Zimbabwe recovers from its worst drought in 25 years due to the El Niño climate cycle. Last year, the United Nations (UN) announced that up to 5.2 million people in Zimbabwe would experience food shortage in the first quarter of 2017, and up to 1.1 million of these people are in urban areas, Africa Review reported.
Despite receiving aid from several countries including the US, UK, and China, Zimbabwe UN coordinator, Bishow Parajuli, has noted that the funding is inadequate.
“Sectors such as water, hygiene, and sanitation; education, and protection remain severely underfunded, threatening the country’s hard-won development gains made in these areas over the years,” he warned.
Despite being underfunded, the UN plans to continue providing humanitarian assistance to people in drought-stricken parts of Zimbabwe until March.
— Crispin Fisher (@crispinfisher) March 2, 2016
It is not only the demand for President Robert Mugabe’s birthday bash and the effects of the recent drought that Zimbabwean farmers have to deal with, recent heavy rains in the country have damaged farmlands, and there is an acute lack of nitrate fertilizer due to the shortage of foreign currency to import it, Reuters reported.
Also, there was an outbreak of army worms on maize farms in the country recently. Maize is a staple food in Zimbabwe. However, the President of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union, Wonder Chabikwa, said that the outbreak had been brought under control after farmers used pesticides.
While increased rainfall is expected to alleviate the food shortage in the country, experts say it is impossible to be certain of this until after the upcoming harvest season in April.
Amid this food crisis, about five tons of maize and some cattle have reportedly been secured for President Robert Mugabe’s birthday bash.
According to News Day, the committee in charge of President Mugabe’s birthday bash plans to raise $250,000 in total from the country’s 10 provinces to cover the cost of the event. The Zimbabwe Consolidation Diamond Company is reportedly one of the companies being targeted to bankroll the event.
Meanwhile, the committee has been forced to backtrack in the face of protests against its previous plan to stage President Robert Mugabe’s birthday celebration at the Matobo National Park. Many opposition groups in the country had slammed the government’s plan to hold the birthday party in Matobo near the site of the Gukurahundi massacre where up to 20,000 Zimbabweans were killed and many others tortured as Mugabe sought to stamp out dissidents in the 1980s.
Khanye, who is part of the organizing committee for President Mugabe’s birthday, revealed that the bash would now be held at the Rhodes Estate Preparatory School in Matobo.
“The reason for the change is that at the first venue that we had earmarked we found out that we no longer have enough time to prepare it then we opted for a venue that is already used as a rugby pitch and can accommodate all the 10 provinces,” he explained.
The date of President Robert Mugabe’s birthday party has not been announced.
[Featured Image by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]