By Prince Tongogara
Harare, February 25, 2014 – After spending a million dollars celebrating President Robert Mugabe’s 90th birthday in Marondera on Sunday, Zimbabweans woke up to the reality that despite the festivities, the feel good activities and the dosage of media coverage, that did not erase corruption, maladministration and mass starvation bedeviling the country.
Mugabe, who celebrates 34 years in power this year, has become pervasive in every conversation in the country, attracting admiration in equal measure to derision across the country.
However, every February the country comes to standstill with most state-run and private enterprises outdoing each other to sponsor the event while broadcasters give him hours of coverage and print media fill up columns upon columns feting the man.
For three days, from Friday to Sunday, Mugabe was the “news”. The flooding in Tokwe-Mukosi, in Masvingo province, that left thousands of people homeless, the corruption scandals in parastatals and the liquidity crunch devouring the economy all became fillers in the media.
Private companies and some struggling parastatals were falling over each other to flight congratulatory messages to Mugabe in the media or sponsor the public commemorations where 90 beasts were slaughtered for the lavish party amid a swarming sea of poverty.
Company chief executives drove in luxury all-terrain sport utility vehicles, the political elites dressed like they were at a horse race while the distinct Mugabe wrapper was also prevalent for the more patriotic individuals.
Performing artists led by musician Mukudzei Mukombe, popularly known as Jah Prayzah serenaded the congregants with music all competing to fete the ‘birthday boy’ whom they praised as Zimbabwe itself despite the prevailing poverty starring them in the face in Marondera’s Dombotombo high density suburb.
On Sunday, time froze, politicians forgot they had to roll their sleeves and get back to work just as much effort they had put in planning the grand birthday bash.
Electricity supply was uninterrupted that day, water was available and the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation capped it all by broadcasting the event live on television despite its financial problems in which it has failed to remunerate employees.
Two days after the celebrations, Zimbabwe is still grappling with the liquidity crunch, corruption and the closure of companies with no solution insight from the Zanu PF government which prior to being elected in July pledged to resuscitate the comatose economy. Probably they are still enjoying their siesta after eating their fill at the party.
At most of the country’s prisons, a catastrophe is waiting to explode after water supplies were cut off for non-payment, 9 617 employees were retrenched according to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) since December 2013, 2.2 million at the risk of starvation and more than 5 000 victims of the Tokwe-Mukosi floods are still stranded and face a bleak future.
In the midst of this despair, Mugabe and his henchmen found it more important to celebrate his 90th birthday than visit the flood victims or take action against corrupt public officials or even find solution to the unending liquidity crunch.
At this rate, political analysts warn, Zimbabwe will become a country known for lavish celebrations instead of finding solutions to its nagging problems.
For now the country will revel in the 21st movement celebrations as the politicians plan other big public parties like the Independence Day fiesta in April, the Heroes Day and Defence Forces Day in August and the Unity Gala in December to cap another year of partying while the nation’s problems remain unresolved.