VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE —
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has celebrated his 91st birthday by hinting the government might seize some of the remaining white-owned land in his country.
Those are members of Zimbabwe's police band singing Happy Birthday for President Robert Mugabe’s 91st birthday party in the resort town of Victoria Falls, more than 900 kilometers southwest of the capital, Harare. The lavish affair, attended by thousands of ruling party supporters, was held on the golf course of a luxury hotel.
In a speech that lasted more than an hour, Africa’s oldest leader said he hoped Zimbabwe’s economy will recover from an agricultural collapse that followed the redistribution of white-owned farmland to black farmers, many lacking the experience to manage it effectively. But the president noted that many white farmers still own land in Zimbabwe - mainly used in the safari industry.
“But we are now going to invade these forests. Our people cannot be suffering, even suffering because of sanctions by the United States. Yet lots of land is occupied by their people as safari owners. They cannot have it both ways. If they want to be friends, then they must be friends with us in toto,” he said.
In 2002, the United States and many Western countries imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his ZANU-PF leadership following allegations of election rigging and human rights abuses.
Mugabe blames those measures for Zimbabwe’s ailing economy.
The president did not indicate when he would retire from office at his birthday celebration. The lavish party, held at an estimated cost of one million dollars, had a menu including meat of two elephants, drawing criticism from environmentalists that the development promotes poaching.