Nearer home in Mutare we had something similar yesterday when thousands gathered to celebrate President Robert Mugabe’s 88th birthday. Praise after praise was lavished on Mugabe who, just a few days earlier, had been described by bootlicking ministers as a “a tourist attraction, a centre of tourism development”, a pillar of our nationhood and as an educator par excellence.
Mugabe, once described as Cremora (a Swiss milk product) by Information minister Webster Shamu, cut cake and his protégés wined and dined as if tomorrow would never come.
Like in North Korea, the lavish scale of the feasting was in stark contrast with the fortunes of a country which has an unemployment rate above 80%. In a case of misplaced priorities, thousands of dollars were splashed on expensive food, accommodation and transport.
Some media reports suggested the bash may have cost almost US$1 million. With severe drought ravaging Manicaland, Masvingo and Matabeleland provinces, rampant HIV and Aids epidemic, typhoid and shortages of drugs in clinics, Mugabe should have, for once, foregone this obscene extravagance in sympathy of the many suffering Zimbabweans.
His lavishness sends the wrong message to thousands of civil servants battling to get an increment and literally going to work on empty stomachs. It does the same to thousands of Zimbabweans who survive on food handouts from aid agencies.
Just before the bash, the public media was awash with adverts, mostly from loss-making parastatals and public institutions congratulating Mugabe on his birthday. Couldn’t that public money be used for better purposes?
Such sheer recklessness indicates disconnection between the president and the common people; the gap is getting too wide.
Quote of the week
“I will not agree to elections without the reforms. The way forward is a free and fair election, but only predicated by a process which includes a new constitution and the implementation of those reforms that will result in a credible poll.” PM Morgan Tsvangirai on new elections.