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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 February 2008, 15:54 GMT
Opposition anger at Mugabe party
Peter Biles
BBC News, Musina

Movement for Democratic Change supporters put up a hot-air balloon with a message for President Robert Mugabe in Musina, South Africa.
The opposition had a clear message for Mr Mugabe

About 200 Zimbabwean exiles living in South Africa have staged a demonstration on the South African border to protest against President Robert Mugabe's 84th birthday celebrations.

Mr Mugabe was marking his birthday just a few kilometres away across the Limpopo river in the Zimbabwean town of Beitbridge.

The anti-Mugabe demonstrators wore T-shirts with the slogan: "The party's over."

They also launched a helium balloon at the border post with the message for President Mugabe which read: "Bob, you've had your cake, now beat it!"

The treasurer of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Roy Bennett, who also lives in exile in South Africa, addressed the small crowd.

"We are gathered here after many years of suffering, while across the river, after 28 years, a man who is now 84 years old, is having a birthday party," he said.

[President Mugabe] is spending 300,000 US dollars to have a birthday party
Roy Bennett
Movement for Democratic Change

"A birthday party while everybody around him is starving and dying. There's no electricity, there are no roads, there are no jobs, there's no education, there's no medical, there's no nothing," he added.

"He is spending 300,000 US dollars to have a birthday party."

'In tatters'

Activists in the crowd expressed similar anger about the economic catastrophe now unfolding in Zimbabwe, where inflation has reached 100,000%.

Bob, you've had your cake, now beat it!
MDC protest balloon

"People are suffering in Zimbabwe. People are leaving the country. He has to consider why they are leaving the country," said a woman demonstrator.

"Everything is in tatters. He has to think again because people are suffering," she added. "We are not going to celebrate with him. We are the ones who are suffering and it's hurting us."

One male demonstrator had a warning for Mr Mugabe - not to repeat the mistakes made during the recent presidential election in Kenya. Zimbabweans go to the polls on 29 March.

map

"If ever they are going to rig an election, we are going to take it further. That's why we warned him to beware of another Kenya," he said.

"We are not going to beat around the bush - we are going to confront them."

As the protesters dispersed, the Beitbridge border crossing returned to its normal state, though the impact of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe can clearly be seen on the South African side of the border.

Plastic jerry cans for carrying fuel are piled up at the entrance to the local filling station and dozens of trucks with essential supplies queue through the heat of the afternoon to enter Zimbabwe.

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