Zimbabwe opposition parties have called on ordinary Zimbabweans not to be coerced into donating towards President Robert Mugabe's 92nd birthday party to be held in Masvingo next month, according to a report.
Organisers of the nonagenarian's birthday this year reportedly have to raise at least $800 000 for the celebration at Mucheke Stadium on February 28, with the drought hit Masvingo province expected to raise at least $100 000, the reports said.
The organisers, the February 21 movement - a group established in 1986 to encourage Zimbabwean youths to emulate Mugabe's "selfless character and leadership qualities" - promised to pull all stops to make the celebrations the biggest of them all.
According to Southern Eye, however, opposition parties said it would be "unfair" for the ruling Zanu-PF party to expect donations from cash-strapped civil servants and ordinary Zimbabweans.
Rugare Gumbo, a former Zanu-PF spokesperson now linked to the Peoples First movement, blasted the initiative of raising cash for Mugabe's birthday bash, saying the money could be used to feed thousands of villagers affected by the dry season instead.
"$800 000 could be used for a lot of things [including] importation of maize or even civil servants' salaries. Priority should be to address issues that people are facing and not have a bash. These people are not concerned about the majority, but the minority that benefit from their extractive policies," Gumbo was quoted as saying.
Long-time critics of president Mugabe's regime, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai, said it was "immoral" for the ruling party to ask struggling Zimbabweans to donate towards a lavish party while their own situation at home deteriorated.
Reports on Tuesday indicated that president Mugabe had been challenged to donate the money raised for his birthday party to help source food for the poor in Zimbabwe.
A teachers union in the southern African country urged Mugabe to put the cash to good use by securing food for Zimbabweans who are facing acute food shortages.
Zimbabwe is reportedly facing widespread food shortages, with the situation said to be critical in the country's rural areas, following a particularly harsh dry season.
According to statistics, over one million people are faced with hunger.
Source: News 24