Over the past week, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe marked his 92nd birthday with a number of celebrations. These included the cutting of an elaborate cake in Harare, the capital, and another lavish event further south in a drought-stricken region of the country.
There the nonagenarian potentate, who has now been in power for more than three and a half decades, was feted at a party organized to the tune of nearly $1 million. Ninety-two balloons were released into the sky, while supporters read out poems and sang songs in Mugabe’s honor. He ate another cake that came in the shape of a vaguely accurate political map of the African continent.
“Mugabe’s birthday,” a state-run newspaper had trumpeted earlier, “is like that of Jesus Christ.”
Meanwhile, as myriad reports noted, there’s a “state of disaster” declared in the country’s rural areas, with some 3 million Zimbabweans in dire need of food aid. A severe drought has compromised some three-quarter of the country’s maize crop. Last month, the government requested some $1.5 billion in aid from the U.N. World Food Program.
But Mugabe, who has ruled the country since its independence in 1980 despite reports of his ill-health, maintained his dogged anti-Western line. In a speech, he rebuffed possible assistance from the international community if it meant having to also put up with supposedly foreign values.