10,000 gather for Robert Mugabe's birthday, defiance awaits

HARARE – Up TO 10,000 Zimbabweans were flocking to Robert Mugabe's 87th birthday party in Harare today – and his supporters have been falling over each other to flatter him.

State radio has been playing Happy Birthday Mr President throughout the week. Youths from Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party have flighted adverts on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), appealing to locals to hand over "donations" towards the celebrations.

However, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai said yesterday the former guerrilla leader’s party was "directly mobilising and sponsoring destabilisation and violence" to terrify voters ahead of elections expected this year.

Details of food to be served at today’s feast, to be held in a Harare hotel, have been kept a closely guarded secret. In the past, those at the top table have dined on lobster and caviar, while ordinary party members have eaten cattle commandeered from the few remaining white farmers.

Plagued by rumours of growing ill-health, Mr Mugabe actually appears increasingly paranoid, terrified that protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya may be replicated inside Zimbabwe. Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi is one of his closest allies.