By Jeffrey Moyo
Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe has turned 94 on Tuesday, but his birthday, which used to be celebrated amidst extravagancy with pomp and fanfare, was a low key event.
Mugabe’s birthday was recognized as Robert Mugabe Youth Day and a national holiday on November 24, 2017, the day when new President Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as leader of the Southern African nation, following a military operation which led to the resignation of Mugabe as president.
On his last birthday bash celebrated last year before his ouster from power, the ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) threw a party for Mugabe estimated to have cost the bankrupt nation up to $2 million.
Asked about the meaning of the Robert Mugabe Youth Day, Zimbabwe’s acting Information Minister Simon Khaya attributed the event to the country’s youths.
“It is a youth occasion. The youth have said they will tidy up the towns and cities. It is a day we prize and we venerate the former president,” Moyo told Anadolu Agency.
When asked if there will be a public program for youth, Pupurai Togarepi, ZANU PF politburo secretary for youth, said: "Today is Youth Day. Youths will be doing charity work, discussing development issues, issues which challenge them.”
Despite Mugabe not featuring in public since his resignation from power last year, Togarepi showered the aged former leader with praise.
"He is our hero. He is also our icon, one who hugely contributed to the development of this country. One cannot celebrate the Youth Day without including Robert Mugabe,” added Togarepi.
But people frustrated by Mugabe’s long time rule took to Twitter, lambasting the day dedicated to their former president.
“I see waste in your icon, let’s stop this ludicrous admiration. This man is guilty of a lot of crimes against humanity and this government honors that,” charged Aletheia, a Twitter user.
Another Twitter user Admire Nyamwanza called Mugabe “the icon of dictatorship, poverty creation, electoral theft and bad governance.”
On Tuesday, Zimbabwe Service Commission Chairman Mariyawanda Nzuwah issued a statement confirming today is a public holiday in line with the country’s Statutory Instrument Number 143 of 2017.