Mugabe hosts lavish party despite national crisis
Zimbabwe’s prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai was visiting cholera patients at a hospital in Harare.
HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) — Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was celebrating his 85th birthday with a lavish all-day party Saturday despite the fact that the country is gripped by an economic and health crisis.
Mugabe invited Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his new partner in a power-sharing government, but a Tsvangirai spokesman said the opposition party leader turned it down. Tsvangirai said it is a political party function and as the prime minister, he is not obligated to attend, the spokesman said.
The spokesman would not acknowledge whether Tsvangirai had initially agreed to attend, but it was widely reported in Zimbabwean media that he had agreed to do so.
Friday, Tsvangirai visited Harare Hospital, one of the country’s biggest, and said its intensive care unit will need $30,000 in order to start operating again after a funding shortage.
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF raised $250,000 in order to hold the party.
Though he was holding his party Saturday, Mugabe’s birthday was seven days earlier.
The party was being held at the university in Mugabe’s hometown of Chinhoyi, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) outside of the capital, Harare.
Attendees will mostly be elite ZANU-PF members, but the president also invited schoolchildren from around the country. They will all be treated to food, music, and a likely speech by Mugabe.
In previous years, Tsvangirai and others have criticized the birthday parties as a waste of money, a splurge when Mugabe’s countrymen are facing food shortages and a worsening health situation.
Since Mugabe’s last birthday, a cholera epidemic has hit every corner of the country, killing 3,731 people and infecting nearly 80,000, according to the World Health Organization, which quoted Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health.
The preventable disease has spread through Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces through lack of access to clean water, faulty sewage systems, and uncollected refuse, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), which released a report this month on the outbreak.
The problems, MSF said, are “clear symptoms of the breakdown in infrastructure resulting from Zimbabwe’s political and economic meltdown.”
Sunday, Tsvangirai appealed to the international community to help Zimbabwe’s crippled economy, saying that it would take $5 billion dollars to stabilize the country.
The cholera outbreak has worsened Zimbabwe’s economic crisis. An acute food shortage because of years of poor agricultural production, widespread corruption and failed government policies have ravaged Zimbabwe’s currency, whose inflation rate is the world’s highest.