President Mugabe thanked God yesterday for giving him a long life that sees him turn 91 years today, saying he is happy to reach that age.Â Answering a question from the media on his birthday message in Pretoria, South Africa, where he chaired the Extraordinary Sadc Double Troika Summit on Lesotho, President Mugabe had delegates in stitches when he threw some jokes.
He jokingly said he had forgotten about his birthday and that he imagines how many tonnes of sugar he has taken in the 91 years.
âI have had a lionâs share, I am sure,â he said. âBut seriously, I am happy I am that age. I am happy God has looked after me. And I am happy also that my relatives, my friends and they include of course political friends who have assisted us in the struggle, South Africa included, have made me happier that I have seen my country become an independent one.
âI have also seen my country also going to the assistance of others which had not become independent and ensuring that they got their independence. But when all is said and done, I said to the good Lord, thanks for giving me this long life.â
There was a round of applause from the floor after President Mugabe finished speaking.
President Mugabe will celebrate his birthday in Victoria Falls next Saturday at a colourful function that will coincide with the 29th edition of the 21st February Movement.
The 21st February Movement was inaugurated in 1986 under the auspices of the Zanu-PF Youth League to encourage Zimbabweans, particularly youths to emulate President Mugabeâs revolutionary ideas, charismatic leadership and selfless policies.
As of yesterday, congratulatory messages were already streaming in from organs of Zanu-PF and ordinary Zimbabweans, wishing the President more years of good health and wise leadership.
In a statement, Zanu-PF spokesperson Cde Simon Khaya Moyo, hailed President Mugabe not only for his exceptional role in the liberation of Zimbabwe, but his remarkable work in post independence era.
âGiven the rarity of this achievement, we believe that this is the best evidence yet that his leadership is indeed the will of the Almighty God,â he said.
âWe wish him many more and look forward to more years of his extraordinary stewardship.
âPresident Mugabe has done remarkable work not just in respect of our liberation (of which every Zimbabwean, including our brothers and sisters in the opposition, is a beneficiary) but also in terms of capably leading Government since independence.â
He said the 21st February Movement celebrations next weekend would afford the young people a golden opportunity to reflect on the leadership of President Mugabe who was not only appreciated in Zimbabwe but also cherished the entire world as amply demonstrated by his election recently to lead both the SADC and AU.
âIt is trite that President Mugabeâs birthday celebrations are always sponsored by patriotic Zimbabweans and never by Government. The suggestion that public funds were used to sponsor this yearâs celebrations is therefore unfounded,â he said.
Cde Khaya Moyo said desperate attempts by MDC formations with the backing of the grovelling Western media that President Mugabeâs birthday celebrations would gobble US$1 million were useless smear campaign that would not stop the people of Africa in general and Zimbabweans in particular from idolising this special man.
The Zanu-PF Youth League, which is organising the 21st February Movement celebrations, said it was elated that President Mugabe had achieved a rare feat in life.
The leagueâs deputy secretary Cde Kudzai Chipanga, said this yearâs celebrations of the 21st February Movement, were unique because they were also coming at a time when President Mugabe had been crowned the Sadc and Africa Union chairman.
âAs the Youth League, we want to congratulate our President for turning 91,â he said. âThis year is unique in that the celebrations are coming at a time when President Mugabe has assumed the chairmanship of both Sadc and the African Union so we are not only celebrating the life of a national leader, but a continental leader.
âWe are happy as young people that this continental leader is coming from Zimbabwe.â
Cde Chipanga said President Mugabe was not only an icon of Zimbabweâs liberation, but a patriarch of the countryâs economic emancipation whose life was worth celebrating.
As a result of President Mugabeâs wise leadership, Cde Chipanga said, Zimbabwe had moved strides in terms of economic development.
âThrough his leadership, we now have land and we are also in the process of empowering our people economically through indigenisation,â he said.
âWe hope that God will continue to look after him and give him more years of good health as he nurtures us along this revolutionary path.â
He said President Mugabeâs commitment to the wellbeing of young people was second to none.
Zanu-PF Mashonaland Central provincial chair Cde Dickson Mafios, said as the nation celebrates President Mugabeâs 91st birthday, it was important to reflect on his achievements, which had made Zimbabwe a distinct nation.
Cde Mafios said Zimbabwe was now commanding the highest literacy rate in Africa as a result of President Mugabeâs education policies.
âAs Mashonaland Central, we join the rest of the country in celebrating the birthday of our leader President Mugabe,â he said.
âWe are happy that since 1980, Zimbabwe had made a lot of achievements politically, socially and economically as a result of President Mugabeâs leadership.
âWe are also elated that it is not only Zimbabweans who have expressed confidence in the President, but even Sadc and the African Union had also shown unparalleled trust in our leader by electing him chairman of both bodies.â
During the liberation struggle, Cde Mafios said, Zanu PF faced a fair share of challenges but President Mugabe managed to guide the party to final destiny, which was independence.
In Mashonaland West where President Mugabe hails from, Zanu-PF interim provincial chair Cde Ziyambi Ziyambi, said: âHe (President Mugabe) has been our guiding light since the liberation struggle until we attained independence. We hope God will continue to look after him until 2018 and beyond when we have the next national elections.â
Ordinary Zimbabweans interviewed by the Herald spoke glowingly about President Mugabe.
Charity Chakwana of Hatcliffe, said President Mugabe was a true revolutionary who had changed the face of Zimbabwe.
âAs Zimbabweans, we no longer have that colonial mindset of hero worshipping the whites as we see in other African countries,â she said.
âWe have that sense of national pride as a result of President Mugabeâs uncompromised leadership.â
Another Zimbabwean Tinashe Wazvaremhaka, wished President Mugabe more years of good health.
He said he would make sacrifices to attend this yearâs edition of the 21st February Movement in Victoria Falls.
More than 20 000 local and foreign delegates are expected to grace yearâs celebrations which are being held under the theme: âCelebrating the birth of Gushungo, the icon of Zimbabweâs revolution and champion of youth empowerment.â