Robert Mugabe’s birthday party cooks up an elephantine storm

Wild animals including elephants are to be slaughtered and served at Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s birthday party later this month, according to media reports, angering conservationists who have branded the plans unethical.

The lavish celebration for Mugabe’s 91st birthday will be held on February 28 on a championship golf course at the Elephant Hills Resort, a luxury hotel with spa, swimming pool and tennis courts at Victoria Falls. An estimated 20 000 people are expected to attend.

Local farmer Tendai Musasa has pledged to donate two elephants, two buffalo, two sables, five impalas and a lion worth a combined £78 000 (about R1.4-million) towards the jamboree, Zimbabwe’s Chronicle newspaper reported.

“This is our way of supporting the function and to ensure a celebratory mood in our community as well,” Musasa was quoted as saying. “The total value is $120 000. This reflects the money we get annually and we thought this would be a perfect gesture.”

He added: “At the moment we are making arrangements with the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to slaughter these animals a few days before the day. We are also liaising with the hotel that will keep the meat.”

Under fire
Mugabe’s government is already under fire for a plan to export 27 live elephants to China, and activists have condemned the donation.

Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force chair Johnny Rodrigues said: “I am not in favour of anyone donating wild animals for a celebration or for any other reason.

“They have been doing this for years now. Every time there is a celebration or on independence day, several elephants and buffalo are killed for the celebrations. This is totally unethical and should not be allowed.”

The gift has dismayed the community near Musasa’s farm outside Victoria Falls following a wrangle over land ownership, according to the Chronicle. They allege that the animals are being handed over without consultation.

“Villagers said the animals involved were part of their annual hunting quota and donating them meant no income for the whole year. They said they were powerless because challenging the donation could be misinterpreted as unwillingness to participate towards the celebrations,” reported the paper.

Mugabe turns 91 on Saturday February 21. Not for the first time, the extravagance of his birthday party has drawn criticism against the backdrop of a moribund economy and decaying public services. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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