Over the next few days, two elephants, a “trophy lion,” two buffaloes, two sable antelopes and fives impalas will be slaughtered to be the centrepieces at a birthday feast for Robert Mugabe, the generally reviled long-time leader of Zimbabwe, who turns 91.
The Victoria Falls farmer who is donating the game meat says it’s worth an estimated $120,000.
“This reflects the money we get annually and we thought this would be a perfect gesture,” the donor, Tendai Musasa told The Chronicle, which is a state-run daily newspaper.
“This is our way of supporting the function and to ensure a celebratory mood in our community as well,” he said.
The Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has been tasked with slaughtering the animals a few days before the Feb. 28 birthday extravaganza. (Mugabe actually turned 91 on Feb. 21, and the group known as the 21st February Movement, is tasked with planning the birthday festivities.) The party, to be held at the Elephant Hills Resort, has a budget of around $1-million with invited guests numbering 20,000, according to numerous reports.
In any event, locals were incensed, alleging the donation diverts money away from annual hunting quotas, which in turn hurts their income. But others were incensed for different reasons. Zimbabwe has let poachers run roughshod over the country, including the capture of live baby elephants for export to countries such as China.
Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, posted his outrage on Facebook.
“They will be killing elephants, buffalo, kudu, warthogs etc to feed the guests. We are disgusted about this. Mugabe once gave a speech on TV saying that he looks after all the animals in the country, right down to the insects. There are so many people starving in Zimbabwe and the people invited to the party will not be those who are starving.”
Mugabe has been in self-appointed power for nearly 35 years. His decadence has raised the hackles of both locals, who are hungry, and pundits, who say Mugabe’s own policies of plunged his country into economic despair. Or, as The Guardian put it so eloquently about the controversy in a recent headline: Let us eat cake: Robert Mugabe prepares for lavish birthday celebrations.