Africa

Dear Robert Mugabe ... happy 90th

Ray Ndlovu

Nevermind the naysayers, Your Excellency, why not make February 21 a public holiday?

Bon appetit! The country can once again join in President Robert Mugabe's birthday celebrations, which will be screened live on television. (Philimon Bulwayo, Reuters)

Dear President Robert Mugabe

Your birthday is unforgettable — literally. It is perhaps the single most advertised occasion in Zimbabwe, surpassing most official government events, and that alone makes it very hard to forget.

I share a birthday with you and all my life, having joined you 63 years into your own, I have been made to feel special for that.

For as long as I can remember — at home, at school and during my varsity days — there were always gentle reminders of "how special I was for sharing a birthday with the president".

The last memorable event was when my uncle asked our 300 wedding guests to guess who I shared a birthday with. It was an easy one. In a chorus-like response the guests shouted: "The president!"

I would have doubted their patriotism if they had not remembered your day, or should I say our day.

I must confess, Your Excellency, that I did blush, although I am not sure whether such a grand announcement was embarrassing or whether it put me in good stead with the higher circles.

Speaking in hushed tones
You see, not everyone speaks well of you — although those who do not mostly speak in hushed tones.

The rest seem to love you. Do you think it might be out of fear of insult laws against the president?

Over the years I have become used to the fact that mentioning our shared birthday can gain me a bit of mileage.

It is not quite the equivalent of holding a Zanu-PF membership card, but it does have its perks.

No one ever forgets my birthday. But I do worry that the low turnout at my parties is not merely because I can only afford modest parties. You do not appear to have that concern.

Your birthday this year will cost $1-million to host and planning for it has been intense, complete with fund-raising dinners, galas and soccer tournaments.

One lucky birthday boy
Just the other year there was a bevy of beauties fighting it out to be crowned "Miss 21st February".

Recent media reports say teachers in some far-flung province have been asked to donate a few dollars to your provincial celebration.

You are one lucky birthday boy. Parastatals will again splash huge advertisements in newspapers to wish you a happy one.

Sometimes it makes me happy. It being my special day too, I feel the ads are also directed at me.

All roads will lead to Marondera for your big bash this weekend.

Sadly, I will not be part of the wining and dining, because for me it is a work day.

The 21st February Movement parties
I have never attended these 21st February Movement parties, even though as a child I was told they were meant for all the February 21 babies.

Are there any statistics on how many of us there are?

Would it not be possible, Your Excellency, to look into the issue of declaring your birthday a public holiday?

I think it is long overdue. I, for one, would appreciate that gesture.

After all, the whole country already acts as if it is a communist holiday — donning those red 21st Movement scarves.

Red: the colour of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition sellouts.

Time to rethink birthday colour?
Maybe it is time to rethink your birthday colour? But let us not think about that for now.

Just ignore the noises that will come from the MDC if you declare February 21 a holiday.

We are already lagging behind on this issue and yet we are a sovereign state. Just look at our neighbours.

South Africans celebrate Madiba's birthday by donating 67 minutes to do good work.

Botswana, which is less sovereign than us, has two holidays — Sir Seretse Khama Day and President's Day.

I will not get into the issue of how some people have been diverting donations and contributions from birthday well-wishers to their own pockets.

Enough corruption stories
Today is your special day and I do not want to upset you with more corruption stories. There are enough of them in the media already.

Unlike your birthday, Your Excellency, mine will not come with all this pomp and fanfare.

I might get a cake from my dear wife if I am lucky, but she is already complaining about how much she spent on my Valentine's gift.

It is lovely to have a birthday so soon after Valentine's Day. Does Grace also spoil you on Valentine's?

My pastor was preaching last Sunday about helping those who are suffering and I for one am thinking about helping out the Tokwe-Mukosi flood victims.

Have you been there yet? Have you even heard about their plight?

No need for panic
George Charamba, your spokesperson, tells us you are in Singapore for an eye operation. But, he says, we must not panic because you will be back home in time for the party.

Imagine if we had a party without the birthday boy. Nah, that would not work ... so hurry back soon.

I will watch your birthday celebrations beamed live to my television by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

I hope the guys at Zimbabwe Electricity Supply can put aside their load-shedding schedule for us both and give the country an uninterrupted electricity supply for the duration of the broadcast.

At least then the starving masses who cannot come to the stadium will have a visual share in the giant cake that Grace will give you. You have shamed all those who thought you would not make 90.

From one birthday boy to another: Happy birthday, Your Excellency!

Yours in celebration,
Ray Ndlovu


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