Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Mugabe prepares lavish birthday

President Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe blames Western sanctions for his country's collapse

Supporters of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe have raised $250,000 (176,000) for his 85th birthday party on Saturday, state media reports.

Former opposition leader, now Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, will attend the bash, the AFP news agency reports.

The lavish celebrations come as Zimbabwe asks other African countries for $2bn (1.4bn) to rescue its collapsed economy.

They have said they would try to get donors to restore budgetary aid.

But the southern African ministers did not offer any concrete pledges themselves.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation says that 3,894 people have now died from cholera since August last year, from more than 84,000 reported cases.

'Satisfied few'

Mr Mugabe turned 85 on 21 February but his party is being held a week later.

The party is being held in the north-western town of Chinhoyi.

Zimbabwean PM Morgan Tsvangirai at a news conference in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 25 February 2009
Morgan Tsvangirai is due to attend the party for the first time
Harare businessman and Zanu-PF official Philip Chiyangwa donated $110,000 (78,000), The Herald newspaper says.

Last year, Mr Tsvangirai criticised Mr Mugabe's birthday celebrations as "a gathering of the satisfied few".

Mr Mugabe swore in his long-time rival in a power-sharing government earlier this month.

The leaders of Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are meeting later on Friday to review their participation in the unity administration.

Some are concerned that Mr Mugabe has unilaterally appointed senior civil servants, while opposition activists remain in custody.

These include MDC treasurer Roy Bennett, who the party has nominated to be deputy agriculture minister.

He has been accused of involvement in a plot to topple Mr Mugabe.


After a two-day meeting of regional ministers in Cape Town, South Africa's Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said:

"The ministers responsible for finance and investment undertook to pursue measures in support of Zimbabwe's economic recovery programme, namely, collectively engaging bilateral and multilateral donors through SADC [Southern African Development Community] and the African Union."

Western donors have resisted African requests to help rescue Zimbabwe's economy.

They say they are waiting for proof that the unity government is really working.

Zimbabwe has asked for emergency aid to revive public services and the business sector.

But as the summit began on Thursday, local people expressed concern as to whether their country could afford the aid burden, says the BBC's Mohammed Allie in Cape Town.

He points out that South Africa has recently lost thousands of jobs, particularly in the mining, clothing and motor car industry.

Mr Tsvangirai said last week it would cost as much as $5bn (3.5bn) to fix Zimbabwe's economy.

The new administration urgently needs to tackle an economic meltdown that has led to the world's highest inflation, food shortages and a cholera epidemic.

More than half the population is believed to need food aid, while just 10% of adults have a regular job.

The Herald quotes African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka as saying that Zimbabwe's economic recovery plan merits support.

But he said Zimbabwe's foreign debts of $5bn (3.5bn) had to be addressed, before more aid could be sent.

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