Once again it is time to celebrate and bring out the champagne. Not so fast though, it is not what you are thinking. It is Mugabe’s birthday and as he turns 88 no expenses are spared. His birthday party begins with a beauty pageant, includes a football cup final, there is a concert by the country’s top musicians with one especially flown in from America at Mugabe’s request. A military band plays music praising him, drum majorettes marching through the stadium, t-shirts with his portrait emblazoned on the front and back.
A cake baked in Harare is taken to Mutare under police escort and livestock are slaughtered for the event with a price tag of nearly a staggering one million dollars. It is quite extraordinary that Mugabe dedicates a whole week to celebrate his birthday whilst the ordinary Zimbabwean struggles to put food on the table, clothes on their backs, roof over their heads, a birthday celebration to these ordinary citizens is just a dream and it is just another day that just passes by with the norms of struggling to make a living.
In his birthday broadcast, Mugabe calls for election to end the shaky coalition government which was formed after the disputed and violent elections in 2008. On the other side of the coin, Morgan Tsvangirai described the three year coalition with Mugabe as a painful and sorrowful experience. Mugabe told thousands of his supporters gathered for his birthday bash to shun violence and live peacefully with their rivals but this is far from what is taking place on the ground with Zanu-pf thugs and police officers making a living hell for ordinary citizens.
In the wake of Mugabe’s speech, a long established Zimbabwean human rights activist has been missing for 20 days, villagers in Mashonaland east are being forced to attend Zanu-pf rallies were they are made to sign up as party members and threatened with punishment for refusing or failing to attend, riot police in Bulawayo disrupted a protest march by the women and men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) pressure group where they assaulted members with baton sticks and making several arrests.
Senior officials within Zanu-pf forced several churches and all business in Manicaland to shut down and forced everyone in the area to attend a political rally they had organised telling people in attendance to victimise anyone who supports MDC and anyone who refused to attend would be put on a list and denied inputs such as maize, seeds and fertilizer although these inputs are supposed to be given to everyone no matter what party they support.
The need for political reform remains alive and critical in Zimbabwe as the nation prepares for the referendum and the general elections.