Harare – While rights activists in Harare on Friday protested xenophobic attacks in South Africa, President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace were attending a children’s party, according to the state broadcaster.

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Mugabe, 91 and Grace, 49, were greeted with “screams of joy and whistling” when they arrived at the Harare city sports centre for the party, which is being held ahead of Zimbabwe’s 35th independence celebrations on Saturday, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation said.

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Thousands of schoolchildren are at the party, where the Education Minister Lazarus Dokora claims Zimbabwe is in a “celebratory mood”, according to an online update from the official Herald newspaper.

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Mugabe’s daughter Bona and her husband Simba Chikore are also at the party.

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The long-time Zimbabwean president, who is also head of the AU and SADC, has not made any public statement yet about the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, though his ruling Zanu-PF party has expressed its alarm.

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Zimbabwe was preparing to evacuate 1 000 of its nationals from South Africa on Sunday, according to media reports.

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Riot police with truncheons forced some protesters to disperse from outside the South African embassy earlier on Friday, an activist told News24. The protest had not been given police permission to go ahead, unlike an anti-xenophobia protest planned by ruling party youths for early next week.

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Anger is growing in Zimbabwe over the attacks in South Africa.

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South African group Big Nuz was scheduled to give a concert in Bulawayo on Independence Day, but reports say it has been cancelled.

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There are also calls for hip-hop star Cassper Nyovest’s concert next week to be boycotted, even though he has said he will donate all proceeds to xenophobia survivors. – News24