Robert Mugabe Gives Defiant Speech During 90th Birthday Celebration

mugabe birthdayThousands of people turned out on Sunday to wish happy birthday to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who threw 90 balloons into the air to mark his 90th year and continuing hold on power.

Fresh off the plane from Singapore, where he had traveled for eye surgery last week, Mugabe was in typically defiant mood as he launched the celebrations at Marondera stadium, east of the capital, Harare.

“I feel as youthful and energetic as a boy of nine,” Mugabe said, before cutting his cake.

Dressed in a black suit, red tie and white shirt, he moved around the venue on the back of a truck, waving his fist to a crowd made up largely of schoolchildren bussed in for the occasion.

In a speech that lasted more than an hour, Mugabe told the crowd that the election win for his Zanu-PF party last year had confounded his critics in the West. “Those opponents of ours who had imposed sanctions on us were baffled,” he said.

“The truth is Zanu-PF won, Zanu-PF had the support. Zanu-PF had the message, had the history, Zanu-PF has the people.”

Before his speech, ambassadors from China and Russia presented Mugabe with messages of congratulations from their presidents.

“At times I think of how I have survived over the years, escaping death, many of my friends and relatives have died. It saddens me at times, but at the same time you are happy that you have turned 90,” Mugabe told the crowd.

Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the former rebel led the country to independence from Britain in 1980.

His party won another resounding victory in August, taking two-thirds of the vote, although critics say he used state power to intimidate voters and opponents.

Huge cakes were on display in the stadium on Sunday while the crowd wore red scarves, as is traditional on the president’s birthday, and waved national flags.

A series of speakers led the crowd in chanting Zanu-PF slogans and denouncing the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which has spent years unsuccessfully trying to overturn Mugabe’s rule in the face of catastrophic economic decline.

Mugabe returned to familiar anti-colonial themes in his speech, saying: “The British – we don’t hate you, we only love our country. We love our freedom.”

Senior government officials, security chiefs and Mugabe’s children were also among the well-wishers.

Dozens of state enterprises, government ministries and supporters had showered praise on the veteran leader on Friday, Mugabe’s actual birthday, with more than 20 pages of advertisements in the state-owned newspaper the Herald.

“Long live our president,” one tribute read, while others hailed Mugabe as an “icon and pillar of inspiration,” “beacon of excellence” and “selfless leader.” The newspaper also dedicated 16 pages to 90 of Mugabe’s quotes over the years, from the liberation struggle to his digs at the West and gay men and lesbians.



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