Who paid for Mugabe’s costly birthday bash?

2012-02-25 15:39

More than R15 million ($2 million) was spent on president Robert Mugabe’s birthday party yesterday. The veteran ruler turned 88 on Tuesday.

Although everyone is happy to brag about the cost of the birthday spectacle, which included a soccer tournament and beauty pageant, they are silent about where the money is coming from.

Speculation is that local businesses, government ministries and party stalwarts donated handsomely towards the event. For the past two months, the party had been canvassing its 10 provinces to chip in with “donations” – with provinces falling over each other to donate the largest amounts.

It is understood from a top Zanu-PF official who requested anonymity that Marange Resources, a diamond company part-owned by government, gave “quite a substantial sum” for the event to augment provincial donations which had fallen short.

Last year Marange Resources was also linked to funding at Zanu-PF’s conference in December and has recently stepped up its corporate responsibility programmes. Last week it launched a $3-million sponsorship package for women’s football.

Coincidentally, Mutare – dubbed the “diamond capital” and the heartland of Zimbabwe’s controversial Marange diamonds – will play host this weekend to Mugabe’s 88th birthday celebrations.

Delegates were expected to tour the Marange minefields, where the government has a 50% stake in all five mining companies there, in an effort to familiarise people with its operations.

Party organisers expected 15 000 people to attend the festivities at Sakubva Stadium, which is said to have undergone extensive refurbishment at a cost of $50 000, solely for the bash.

One of the party organisers, Mike Madiro, Manicaland provincial chairperson, said: “We want to ensure that everyone is well fed during the celebrations. The response from the people of Manicaland alone has been overwhelming.

“We now have 40 beasts and we are still appealing for more donations”.

This year’s celebrations were to feature a Miss 21st beauty pageant, a soccer tournament called the “Bob 88 Super Cup” and an all-night music gala by top Zimbabwean musicians. Four top Zimbabwe soccer teams were set to take part and winners would scoop a $1 million cash prize.

Government ministries this week splashed out on full-page advertisements celebrating Mugabe’s birthday in the country’s main daily and weekly newspapers, stoking speculation of covert financing with taxpayers’ money.

MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora slammed Zanu-PF’s expensive celebrations, which come at a time when Harare is battling with a two-month-long typhoid outbreak.

“It is a total waste of taxpayers’ money and evidence of Zanu-PF’s lack of sensitivity.

“People in Harare are dying from typhoid. Zanu-PF does not have its priorities in order. To spend that much money on a birthday party in a country that is struggling so badly is a sign of being out of touch with reality,” said Mwonzora.

Senior Zanu-PF officials Rugare Gumbo, Zanu-PF spokesperson, and Absalom Sikhosana, the leader of
Zanu-PF’s youth wing, insisted that the cost of the bash was “nothing” compared with what Mugabe had done to liberate the country and for his gallant fight against Western imperialism. 

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