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Zimbabwe Celebrates Mugabe's Birthday

  • VOA News

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses his staff during a surprise birthday celebration event at State House in Harare, Feb. 22, 2016.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses his staff during a surprise birthday celebration event at State House in Harare, Feb. 22, 2016.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, the world's oldest leader, hosted a lavish public event in the southeastern city of Masvingo Saturday to celebrate his 92nd birthday.

Thousands of Zimbabweans are traveling to the celebration Saturday to feast on game and beef, in what has become an annual event at the historic Great Zimbabwe Monument, ruins of a historic settlement of Bantu and Shona tribes that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Mugabe released a bouquet of 92 balloons at the celebration.

Critics say celebrations inappropriate

But critics of Mugabe say the feast and festivities, just the latest of a string of celebrations this week, are inappropriate, given that many in Zimbabwe live in poverty and hunger. The government in Harare recently declared a state of disaster for parts of the country due to drought and the poor economy.

FILE - Frail and starving cattle are seen in Chivi, Masvingo province, Zimbabwe. The country's vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, says close to 20,000 farm animals have died due to severe drought conditions. (Photo - S. Mhofu/VOA)

FILE - Frail and starving cattle are seen in Chivi, Masvingo province, Zimbabwe. The country's vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, says close to 20,000 farm animals have died due to severe drought conditions. (Photo - S. Mhofu/VOA)

Masvingo, ironically, is one of the areas worst-hit by the drought.

Given the president's advanced age, Zimbabwe's political community is divided over what will happen after his death, as he has refused to name a successor.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwe is seen as the likely next president. But Mugabe's wife Grace, who is several decades younger than her spouse, has been pursuing her own political ambitions and could be a rival to Mnangagwe for the presidency.

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