Zimbabwean President Mugabe turns 85
Africa's oldest leader, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe turned 85 on Saturday, with a lavish party to follow on February 28, dpa reported.
At a fund-raising event organized by his Zanu-PF party earlier this month, pledges of 110,000 US dollars and several head of cattle, goats and pigs were secured towards the party, despite around half the population not being able to adequately feed itself.
Speaking on national radio earlier this week, Absolom Sikhosana, Zanu PF's youth leader, admitted raising funds for this year celebrations have been more difficult.
"We know things are tough, but it would be nice to honour the pledges you made," he said.
Zanu-PF's youth wing organized another fund-raising dinner dance in Harare on Friday. No information on the amount raised was available as yet.
Once a hero to Zimbabweans and Africans for leading his country's struggle for independence from Britain, Mugabe has seen his domestic popularity wane over the past decade, and his international reputation hit rock-bottom.
Last year he lost a presidential election to now Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a defeat Mugabe's allies attempted to reverse in a second round of voting by killing dozens of opposition supporters and injuring hundreds of others.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai have since formed a coalition government.
A former teacher and guerrilla leader, Mugabe has governed Zimbabwe since independence 29 years ago.
His increasingly populist policies since the emergence of a viable opposition a decade ago are blamed for sinking the country's into its worst-ever economic and humanitarian crisis.
Close to 4,000 people have died in a cholera epidemic sparked by the breakdown of sewerage and water supply systems and around 7 million of an estimated 11 million Zimbabweans require food aid.