Mugabe celebrates 91st birthday with $1 million party
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe threw himself a lavish million-dollar party to celebrate his birthday. A divisive figure, some call Mugabe a dictator, while supporters say he is a nationalist hero.
| Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe celebrated his 91st birthday with a lavish party by the spectacular Victoria Falls on Saturday, prompting many Zimbabweans to question once again when he would leave office and who would succeed him.
Thousands of supporters sat in large white tents during the $1 million birthday celebration on a rolling golf course near the waterfalls, organized by his ZANU-PF party. His party has said the money was raised from individual and company donations.
Mugabe is a deeply divisive figure at home and abroad and is the only leader the southern African country has known since declaring independence from colonial power Britain in 1980.
He is one of a handful of African leaders remaining from a generation that fought white domination, which included South Africa's Nelson Mandela. But while Mandela served one presidential term and then retired, Mugabe tightened his grip on power and shows no sign of departing from the political scene.
On Friday night Mugabe told state television in an interview, the final of a two-part series, that he would not annoint a successor to take over ruling the ZANU-PF party.
"I don't choose my successor, never. I was not appointed successor by anyone," Mugabe said.
"The successor can come from any level of the party. It may be either of the vice presidents, but it's up to the people."
Last December ZANU-PF re-elected Mugabe, making him candidate in the next election in 2018 when he will be 94.
Mugabe denies media reports he is suffering from prostate cancer and maintains his several trips to Singapore are for routine medical checks and to fix a recurring eye problem.
At his party in Victoria Falls Mugabe, who donned a striped black suit and red tie, showed no signs of ill health as he spoke for more than an hour, during which he attacked Western powers for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe.
He was flanked by his two deputies, senior party and government officials, his children and wife Grace.
A local farmer, who runs a wildlife farm in Victoria Falls told a state-owned newspaper last month that he had donated wildlife meat, including crocodile and elephant, to be part of the menu for the party.
Mugabe was feted with poetry, song and dance by local musicians and one of his favorite Zimbabwean gospel singers performed for him, having traveled from the United States.
Critics say Mugabe is a dictator who wants to rule until he dies. They accuse him of human rights abuses, rigging elections and running one of Africa's most economically promising nations into the ground.
But in some corners, Mugabe is feted as a nationalist hero who triumphed over colonial power Britain on the battlefield and at the ballot box, and who remained steadfast in his commitment to the promotion of black African power.