Robert Mugabe holds $1m birthday party in drought-hit Zimbabwe

Credit: Reuters

President Robert Mugabe has come under fire for holding a lavish $1 million birthday party to celebrate his 92nd birthday in a drought-stricken town in Zimbabwe.

Opponents said the event was "an affront to ordinary Zimbabweans" at a time when more than a quarter of the population are in need of food aid.

Mugabe's birthday bashes have become an annual pilgrimage for loyalists but the decision to hold this year's party in Masvingo, an area suffering its worst drought since the early 1990s, was particularly controversial.

Masvingo has seen 75% of the staple maize crop destroyed by the arid conditions.

"The money that is being budgeted for this ill-conceived birthday bash should actually be used to import maize to avert the impending starvation in Masvingo province and other parts of the country," Obert Gutu, a spokesman for the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said in a statement.

Robert Mugabe eats cake at his birthday celebrations in Masvingo. Credit: Reuters

The party, organised by Mugabe's supporters, included a giant cake in the shape of Africa. Attendees released 92 balloons, sang and chanted, praising him as an African icon.

Zimbabwe has requested $1.6 billion to help it pay for grain and other food, but the President has said he will not accept aid if it comes with conditions that the country should accept gay rights.

"If aid, as I understand, is to be given on the basis that we accept the principle of gay marriages, then let that aid stay where it is," Mugabe said during an hour-long speech.

"We don't want it. It is rotten aid, filthy aid and we won't have anything to do with it."

School children wait to release the 92 balloons as part of the celebrations. Credit: Reuters

Opponents have blamed Mugabe for driving the country into a decade of deep recession after the seizures of white-owned commercial farms.

"The British and the Americans in their cunning way as usual have also utilised such opportunities to offer huge sums of money to individuals both within and outside the party so as to cause factionalism," Mugabe added.

Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace arrive at the birthday celebrations in Masvingo Credit: Reuters