HARARE, Feb 21 – Party loyalists on Saturday lavished Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe with praise as he marked his 85th birthday against the backdrop of a deadly cholera epidemic and crippling economic crisis.,
"Like a mighty crocodile, you have remained resilient, focused and resolute against all odds and stood by the principles of our liberation struggle as well as the sovereignty of our beloved motherland, Zimbabwe," the Defence Ministry said in a newspaper advertisement.
Mugabe was due to celebrate his birthday with a feast on February 28 with party members, government officials and diplomats in the farming town of Chinhoyi in his home province of Mashonaland west.
Zimbabwe’s crisis-ravaged economy is characterised by the world’s highest inflation, last put in July at 231 million percent.
The cholera epidemic has killed more than 3,759 people while seven million people — more than half the population of 12 million — need emergency food aid, according to UN figures.
"We indeed salute you our commander-in-chief and hero, and further pray that the Almighty God grant you many more years," the ministry added.
Mugabe’s chief secretary Misheck Sibanda also praised his "visionary leadership, selfless dedication to the ideals of national unity, sovereignty and empowerment of the indigenous majority."
Sibanda said that Mugabe has provided an "enduring legacy that should inspire both current and future generations."
State-run newspaper, The Herald, urged other political parties to "salute" Mugabe’s legacy.
"We should never forget that 50 of the 85 years, comrade Mugabe has been in the trenches slaving so that you and me could live a life of dignity," the newspaper said in an editorial.