Supporters of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe have launched a drive to raise $1.2 million to celebrate his 83rd birthday next week amid the country’s worst economic crisis, a Zimbabwean newspaper reported Monday.
The news of the party plans came as many Zimbabweans struggle to make ends meet in a country where inflation is running at 1,280 percent and there are critical shortages of foreign currency, essential drugs and basic commodities.
Mugabe blames the United States and Britain for imposing sanctions, precipitating the economic crisis. But critics point to his policies, including a campaign of white land seizures that has seen agricultural production—once the country’s economic backbone—plummet by at least 40 percent.
The weekly Standard newspaper said in an editorial Sunday that it was “ironic” the government “sees absolutely nothing amiss in hosting an ostentatious birthday bash” when doctors and nurses were on strike and thousands of students could no longer afford university fees.
But the ruling party’s youth secretary insisted that young people were “very keen” to see the president on his birthday.
“That day is a day where he will be closer to them, encouraging them to have good morals,” Sikosana said.