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Zimbabwe President Mugabe turns 93 and will continue as leader | Coastweek

MATOPOS Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe [left] and his wife Grace attend the 21st Movement Celebrations to mark his 93rd birthday celebrations at Matopos National Park in Mateleland South, Zimbabwe. Family and friends [right] share in 93rd birthday celebrations of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. The veteran, who is the world’s oldest leader, turned 93 on February 21 and every year youths in his party organize a massive birthday celebration in his honor under the banner of the 21st February Movement. XINHUA PHOTOS


Zimbabwe President Mugabe turns 93 and will continue as leader

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe turns 93 Tuesday and has declared that he is ready to soldier on as head of state and government.

Mugabe, who is Africa’s third longest serving after Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, is the only head of government Zimbabweans have ever known since the country attained independence from Britain in 1980.

In an interview with state television to be aired this week, Mugabe said he would only step down if the call came from his party, but that would not be any time soon because the party wanted him to stand as its candidate in the 2018 elections when his current tenure ends.

"They want me to stand for elections everywhere in the party," Mugabe said, adding that in any case party members did not consider anyone good enough to replace him at the moment.

His sentiments echoed those of his wife Grace who said on Friday that even if Mugabe was to contest the election as a corpse, the people would still vote for him.

Mugabe introduced universal education and a robust social program which saw previously marginalized communities benefiting while international aid organizations poured in millions in support of the fledgling government.

However, relations with Western powers started getting frosty over perceived mis-governance issues and alleged violation of human rights in the 1990s and eventually broke down in 2000 when the government expropriated land from white commercial farmers and re-allocated it to formerly landless blacks.

This led to serious economic decline with Mugabe attributing most of the failures to economic sanctions imposed on him by the European Union, the United States and their Western allies since the early 2000s over the land issue.

The government also blames persistent droughts for the decline.

The World Bank said the country’s economy grew by 0.4 percent in 2016 weighed down by a drought and low commodity prices, the lowest growth since the country adopted a multi-currency regime in 2009.

The country recorded a trade deficit of 2.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 because of low activity in the manufacturing sector, while Foreign Direct Investment was curtailed by the government’s hazy indigenization policy which favors blacks.

Zimbabwe has also been hit by cash shortages since 2014, with the U.S. dollar - the major currency in the multi-currency basket adopted in 2009 - becoming elusive.

As a result, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has introduced bond notes at par with the U.S. dollar to plug the deficit, but while many people have grudgingly accepted them, prices of some commodities continue to rise as the black market operators come into play.

Civil servants have endured the effects of a harsh economy with payments of their salaries being done late.

In the meantime, Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party has remained divided along factional lines over the years.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is the perceived leader of one going by the name Lacoste, while Mugabe’s wife is fighting in her own corner with mainly younger leaders calling themselves Generation 40.

Both factions will converge in southern Zimbabwe on Saturday to celebrate Mugabe’s birthday at a lavish party organized by the party’s youth league.

Former Vice President Joice Mujuru was expelled from the party following the party’s congress in 2014 for allegedly harboring ambitions to topple Mugabe and has since formed her own political outfit.


Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe marks 93rd birthday with lavish celebrations

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Saturday marked his 93rd birthday with a lavish party organized by the youth wing in his Zanu-PF party in Matopos, Matabeleland South.

The veteran, who is the world’s oldest leader, turned 93 on February 21 and every year youths in his party organize a massive birthday celebration in his honor under the banner of the 21st February Movement.

Thousands of Zanu-PF supporters attended the ceremony, held just outside the country’s second largest city of Bulawayo.

In his wide-ranging speech, the president thanked God for the long life, saying 93 years was a "long, long journey filled with both joy and sorrow."

Left with one sibling, the president said there were times when he felt lonely after having lost many of his siblings, but reckoned that perhaps he could have been given a long running mandate by God.

"When I look back, I say, aah, Oh Lord, why have these (siblings) been taken before me and why have I remained so long alone and alive?" the president said.

Turning to politics, the president spoke on divisions in his party over succession and reiterated that people should not canvass for positions but should let the people choose them.

"The party is based on a party constitution and the party constitution provides how people get elected from one position to another.

"So why want to try to circumvent the constitution?" the president said.

His party has in recent years been rocked by intense infighting by factions vying to succeed him, one reportedly led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and another by a younger generation of leaders going by the name G40.

Both factions deny the accusations.

Mugabe warned the "ambitious" leaders that they would never succeed in toppling him.

He recently said he was not ready to step down and would not groom a successor as that was the responsibility of the people.

Zanu-PF has endorsed him as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2018 elections when he will be 94.

He said even as some people within his party continue to call for his resignation, he would only step down when his party says so.

The veteran president said he would also not impose a party leader, as that would be in violation of the party constitution.

"I don’t want to choose a leader for the party. I only choose my two vice presidents (Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko) and the issue about my successor that is a constitutional issue, an issue of the party congress," he said.

He told party members to wait for the 2019 Zanu-PF elective congress to deal with the succession issue, and indicated that his successor must be a person of impeccable credentials and a principled leader who would not reverse some of the gains of the country’s liberation struggle including the land reform program.

His wife Grace Mugabe also addressed the gathering and said her husband’s 93rd birthday was a milestone achievement.

She hailed Mugabe as a loving husband, exemplary father, statesman and iconic and great leader of Africa.

"He is everything virtuous to the downtrodden of this world," the First Lady said.

Earlier, Mugabe let 93 balloons into the air to mark the start of the celebrations at Matopos.


Zimbabwe president to officiate at road rehabilitation ceremony

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is expected to officiate at the groundbreaking ceremony of the rehabilitation of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway in early March.

The ceremony will trigger commencement of works on the highway by Austrian firm Geiger International in partnership with Chinese contractor China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), Transport Minister Jorum Gumbo said Monday.

He told a parliamentary committee that at least 40 percent of the value of the project will be sub-contracted to local Zimbabwean companies.

"We asked the financier to allow 40 percent involvement in the project by our local people and they are going to advertise on what they want the locals to contribute," the minister said.

He said some engineers from Geiger International were already in the country preparing to start the work.

An independent engineer in conjunction with government engineers will supervise the project to meet required standards, he said.

Last November, Geiger International signed an Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract with Zimbabwe to pave for the rehabilitation and dualization of the 900-km highway.

The highway will be rehabilitated in segments with Geiger International set to construct the Beitbridge-Harare segment at a cost of 984 million U.S. dollars under a 25-year build operate and transfer model while the Harare-Chirundu segment of the highway will be constructed by CHEC under a loan financing model.

The Beitbridge-Harare road would be constructed over a period of three years.

The Zimbabwe government has since approved the EPC contract for CHEC and a delegation from the Chinese firm is now expected in the country to sign the contract.

The loan agreement for the Harare-Chirundu highway is expected to be concluded by mid 2017, according to minister Gumbo.

The scope of the work include full dualization of the road, including the widening and rehabilitation of the existing road and construction of 37 new two lane bridges and 8 tollgates.

The Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway is Zimbabwe’s busiest road and the gateway to neighboring countries including South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The narrow highway has since outlived its lifespan and is in urgent need of rehabilitation as it is now littered with potholes.


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