(GIN)—Before a crowd of thousands that filled the Marondera stadium east of Harare, ninety balloons were released into the air to mark the 90th birthday of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
“I feel as young and energetic as a boy of nine,” said the president as he cut a 200 pound cake decorated in the country’s traditional colors.
Together with his wife Grace, they took a victory lap in a truck around the stadium, with his fist raised in a clenched salute.
In an interview last week with the State broadcaster, ZBC, Mugabe said his only health worries were eye cataracts and a knee problem, insisting he was still as “fit as a fiddle”.
Unconfirmed reports however allege he also suffers from prostate cancer.
The country’s new constitution could see the man who first came into office as prime minister at age 56, serve as president until he is 99.
In the birthday broadcast, Mugabe insisted he wasn’t ready to retire.
“Why should (retirement) be discussed when it is not due?” the president asked rhetorically. “The leadership still exists that runs the country. In other words I am still there… When the day comes and I retire… I do not want to leave my party in tatters. I want to leave it intact.”
At least two party members—Vice President Joice Mujuru and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwe—are considering a run for Mugabe’s seat should it become vacant.
Meanwhile, pressure is building in Europe to lift the sanctions that were imposed after the confiscation of farms owned by white Zimbabweans for a long-awaited land reform. The European Union recently lifted almost all of the sanctions except those on the president and his wife.
Belgium has especially been lobbying for the removal of sanctions to ensure Zimbabwe’s diamonds from the vast Marange mining fields are traded at Antwerp.
The EU remains Zimbabwe’s second-largest trading partner after South Africa. In the past four years trade between Zimbabwe and the EU improved, with the terms of trade being in Zimbabwe’s favor.
Category: Africa Briefs