Zimbabwe’s Mugabe celebrates 90th birthday

Harare, Feb 24: Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe Sunday celebrated his 90th birthday with tens of thousands of Zimbabweans, a milestone that no other founding fathers of African nations has achieved in office, Xinhua reported.

One of Africa’s most prominent anti-apartheid fighter, Mugabe has been the leader of Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, and having ruled 34 years, he is Africa’s oldest leader and one of the continent’s longest serving presidents.

“I feel as youthful and energetic as a boy of nine. I drop the zero now,” Mugabe said, triggering a round of applause from Zimbabweans who gathered at the open ground of a stadium in Marondera, 75 km southeast of the national capital Harare.

He said that leading a healthy life devoid of smoking and beer drinking had greatly helped him to live this far.

As in past years, Mugabe threw balloons and cut the colorful and gigantic birthday cake with his family — wife Grace Mugabe and their children — while entertainers danced and sang throughout the day. The event was organised by the ruling Zanu-PF party with estimated cost of $1 million.

But this year suspicion around the nonagenarian leader’s health was aroused as he only returned to Zimbabwe Saturday, a day after his actual birthday Feb 21. Officials said Mugabe had travelled to Singapore to have cataract removed from his left eye.

“When the day comes and I retire, yes, sure, the day will come, but I do not want to leave my party in tatters. I want to leave it intact,” Mugabe said.

IANS