Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is unlikely to promote democratic reforms at the summit.
Crowds of supporters clad in Zanu-PF party regalia emblazoned with the president’s image sang and danced as he arrived for the party being held at a luxury hotel in the famed Victoria Falls resort.
Assisted by his wife Grace the frail Zimbabwean leader, who was surrounded by family members, threw 91 balloons into the air.
Elephants were slaughtered for the feast, which was held on the hotel’s golf course, with white marquees erected to accommodate the guests.
Seven huge cakes were on display in one of the tents. One giant 91 kilogram creation depicted the Victoria Falls.
Critics lampooned the scale of the festivities, calling them “obscene” in a country where millions live in poverty.
‘Forward with Mugabe’
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, is the world’s oldest leader.
One of the banners decorating the venue praised him as “the icon of Zimbabwe’s revolution” while supporters chanted: “Forward with President Mugabe”.
While hailed by many African peers as a liberation hero, critics accuse him of turning what used to known as southern Africa’s bread basket into a basket case by trampling human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Mugabe’s violent seizure of white-owned farms triggered food shortages and hyper-inflation, while Europe and the United States imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe over elections seen as rigged.
In an interview marking his birthday, Mugabe admitted he blundered by giving ill-equipped black farmers vast tracts of farmland under his controversial land reforms. “I think the farms we gave to people are too large. They can’t manage them,” Mugabe said.
He also shrugged off questions over an incident earlier this month in which he missed a step and stumbled from a podium.
“I have yet to come across to a person who has not fallen. It was a slight fall, missing a step,” Mugabe told state-controlled television. – AFP