Mugabe turned 92 on Sunday, with no plans to step down as feuding over his
successors threatens to tear his ruling ZANU-PF apart.
The veteran leader will
mark the day with a public celebration on Saturday. Last year’s party was a
massive feast with several elephants slaughtered and seven gigantic birthday
cakes, one weighing 91 kilogrammes. On Sunday, state media
lauded Mugabe for
his leadership since independence from Britain in 1980, while the opposition
urged him to consider stepping down.
special birthday supplement, the Sunday Mail described Mugabe as a “doyen of
pan-Africanism”. “Thank You Bob, We now have a voice, since 1980,” said the
paper on its front cover.
“Long live comrade Mugabe” read another message,
adding: “We pride ourselves in your visionary, bold, insightful and fearless
leadership.” But the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC), said Mugabe should think about whether his country, which is in the
grips of an economic crisis, would not be better served by his bowing out.
“Robert Mugabe should take time to reflect and say isn’t it time for me to pass
on the baton,” MDC spokesman Obert Gutu told AFP. Mugabe once quipped that he
would rule until he turns 100.
Despite his advanced age and recent speculation
over his health, Mugabe has avoided naming a successor, prompting perennial
infighting among rival factions in his ruling ZANU-PF party jostling for his
post. Despite his age, he continues to give lengthy speeches in public, but his
frailty was laid bare last year when he tripped and fell down steps at a
He also courted ridicule in September by reading a speech
to parliament, apparently unaware that he had delivered the same address a
month earlier. His government is accused of systematic human rights abuses and
tipping the country into a severe crisis through a campaign of violent land
Born on February 21, 1924, Mugabe trained as a teacher and taught in
what was then Rhodesia and Ghana before returning home to join the guerrilla
war against white minority rule. He became prime minister on Zimbabwe’s
independence from Britain in 1980 and then president in 1987.