Elderly folks slam million-dollar birthday bash

President Robert Mugabe’s fellow nonagenarians say lavish birthday celebrations in the sunset of life should be low cost and confined to the family.

Lucia Juma: My family cannot afford birthday bashes
Lucia Juma: My family cannot afford birthday bashes

Mugabe celebrated his million-dollar 90th birthday last Sunday in Marondera where 90 beasts were slaughtered and a huge cake was shared with Zanu (PF) supporters. Elderly folks at a home for the aged in Harare said the resources spent on the celebrations would serve a better purpose if channelled towards improving the welfare of marginalised citizens.

Lucia Juma, 93, of St Mary’s in Chitungwiza, said she could not imagine herself being treated to a birthday bash in the midst of economic hardships.

“Life is so hard for my family and the majority of people now that holding a birthday party of any magnitude would be an unnecessary luxury. There is no good reason to celebrate such age at the expense of family basic needs,” said Juma, stressing that old people should be waiting for peaceful and dignified deaths.

She said her family could not afford three meals a day. “At this advanced age one cannot take decisions, in fact we are just excessive baggage to the family,” she added.

Another elderly St Mary’s resident, Tauzeni Bhobho, 100, said his grandchildren had recently organised him a centurion birthday party. “According to African tradition, the occasion was low profile and exclusively a family affair,” said Bhobho, who migrated from Mozambique in 1937.

To prove his age, Bhobho vividly recalled meeting the celebrated Zimbabwe first Chimurenga spirit medium, Mbuya Nehanda “who lived at Chizhanje in Mabvuku, Harare.”


Mugabe, Africa’s oldest head of state, was described by critics as insensitive as his birthday was celebrated when the economy was in tatters and thousands were suffering as a result of recent flooding. $1 million splashed at the birthday bash in less than six hours could have paid school fees for 50,000 rural children at the current cost of $20 per term.

The celebrations, attended by an estimated 10,000, cost Marondera’s hundreds of street vendors dearly. Two weeks ahead of the bash, they were forced underground because they were considered an eye-sore to the president.

“Most of the vendors were driven off the streets as they had no permits. Legitimate vendors were supposed to ply their trade only at designated areas such as Dombotombo bus terminus,” said a top council official who chose to be anonymous.

The extravagant bash also came at a time when the future of some 25,000 Chitungwiza and Seke families hangs in the balance as their houses face demolition.

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