'Use Mugabe's birthday cash to fix roads'

HARARE - Zanu PF must channel the large sums of money budgeted for President Robert Mugabe’s 93rd birthday bash towards rehabilitation of Zimbabwe’s derelict roads, Chitungwiza North MDC MP Godfrey Sithole told the National Assembly.

The nonagenarian and scores of guests are expected enjoy the usual unrestrained feasting at the Matobo holiday resort on February 25, amid widespread grinding poverty and high unemployment.

Traditionally, Mugabe’s birthdays — hosted by the 21st February Movement, which was set up in 1986 to raise funds to celebrate the leader’s birthday each year — are filled with profligacy, pomp and fanfare.

But on Wednesday, Sithole argued that it was irresponsible for Zanu PF to blow large sums on partying given its legacy of underfunding and the siphoning of road maintenance money into other projects.

“The (Local Government) deputy minister (Christopher Chingosho) has stated that some of the problems which caused non-repairing of these potholes is because of finance.

“We have been told that Chitungwiza roads need an amount of $9 million to repair the potholes but at the same time, we are going to hold a birthday bash for the president using an amount of $9 million. Is it not possible for government to divert the funds for the birthday party to the repair of the Chitungwiza roads?” Sithole asked.

National Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda said the issue of Mugabe’s birthday had nothing to do with roads.

“The birthday bash is not being held in Chitungwiza,” Mudenda said amid laughter from other MPs.

Last week, Zanu PF youth secretary Kudzanai Chipanga declined to reveal the total budget of the bash, saying every province is going to cater for its people.

But insiders said they were hoping to raise more than $1 million.

Mugabe’s birthday parties have become an annual pilgrimage for loyalists and those seeking favours from him.

In 2015, Mugabe’s birthday celebrations were held in Victoria Falls while last year they were held in Masvingo.

Last year, the party raised nearly a million dollars for the bash with more than 50 beasts were slaughtered to cater for 50 000 people.

The annual celebrations have been hosted in the country’s 10 provinces on rotational basis.

This year’s will be the 31st edition of the 21st February Movement.

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