Zimbabwe: Mugabe Holds 600,000-Dollar Birthday Bash

Harare — Supporters of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will be marking his 89th birthday Saturday with a party in the northern mining town of Bindura. Residents were ordered to take an hour off work Friday to clean up the streets. Youths had been ordered to raise 600,000 US dollars for the party and a diamond-mining company is reported to have provided the cake.

The celebrations are being organised by the 21 February Movement, an organisation set up to celebrate Mugabe's birthday each year.

The cake will weigh 89 kilogrammes, one kilogramme for each of the president's years.

The private Zimbabwe Independent paper said the cake has been donated by Mbada Diamonds, one of a handful of companies operating in the Marange diamond fields in the east of the country.

Mugabe's wife Grace is reportedly a shareholder in Mbada.

Thousands of supporters are expected to attend the party in Bindura ... and that's not just because they'll enjoy a free meal.

A controversial figure, Mugabe remains popular among a significant swathe of the Zimbabwe population who support both land reforms and his controversial indigenisation programme.

Results of the latest forecast from the Harare-based Mass Public Opinion Institute give his Zanu-PF party 33 per cent of the vote in polls due in July.

That was one per cent more than the Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

In a birthday interview screened on state TV yesterday, Mugabe blamed Britain for the extension of EU sanctions and said Zimbabweans should not be ashamed of taking control of their resources.

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