The million dollar party celebrating Robert Mugabe's 90th birthday has been slammed as a disturbing sign of greed and waste of resources, in a country where the majority are struggling to feed their families.
The ageing ZANU PF leader was honoured with a lavish party at Rudhaka Stadium in Marondera on Sunday, attended by an estimated 10,000 guests that included musicians and athletes as well as political and religious figures.
The Sunday Mail newspaper said a record 90 beasts were slaughtered to feed the guests and dozens more live animals were donated to Mugabe by the ZANU PF provinces. A huge cake was on display during festivities, where Mugabe claimed to be in good health, saying he felt "energetic like a boy of nine".
Former Zimbabwean diplomat and commentator, Clifford Mashiri, disagreed, saying Mugabe was wheeled around the party on the back of a truck instead of walking to greet guests and supporters. This was unlike previous years when he made the rounds on his two feet.
Mashiri said the ageing leader had also exposed his frailty during an interview aired on state television Thursday, when he was seen struggling to speak and rambled on for long periods after each question.
Mashiri also blasted Mugabe and ZANU PF for spending so much on a birthday party, while the country was still dealing with the devastating effects of recent floods and many have nothing to eat. Mashiri said the event was nothing for them to brag about.
"Whether it was him who pooled together the money or it was his inner circle, it's a waste of resources at a time when ordinary people are suffering, including civil servants to whom he made empty promises of salary increases several times. It is unfortunate Mugabe doesn't show any sensitivity to that," Mashiri explained.
Ahead of the stadium celebrations, Mugabe attended a party organised by his office staff at State House Saturday. This was soon after returning from Singapore where he allegedly had an operation to remove a cataract in his left eye, although most commentators felt it was more than that.
The highlight of the office party was reportedly a gigantic birthday gift presented to him by the staff, in the form of a 1.2 ton chair carved in stone and adorned with gold, diamonds, ivory and several animal skins.
Dubbed the "Simbahwe chair", this throne took two years to make and was reportedly a labour of love to honour Mugabe, by three artists who demanded no fee. Mashiri questioned where the gold, diamonds and ivory came from and how his staff could have afforded such an extravagant gift.
"It's most unfortunate there is a cult of personality in Mugabe and as such some people are worshipping him. This is also a serious contradiction in the fight to stop the poaching and abusive killing of animals in the country," Mashiri said.
The party did not disappoint in drama either. In what Mashiri described as "sucking up", Vice President Joice Mujuru reportedly praised Mugabe as an icon then turned to his daughter Bona and said: "Bona, you are not the first daughter, I am the first daughter."