, HARARE, Feb 21 – Supporters of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe heaped praise on him as he turned 89 on Thursday with one newspaper gushing that he was “ripening” like good old wine.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper dedicated a 16-page supplement filled with congratulatory messages from state corporations, private firms and individuals, for Africa’s oldest leader.
“Celebrating his 89th birthday today, President Mugabe is still going strong and is mentally and physically as fit as ever ripening with each passing day like good old wine,” said an editorial in The Herald.
The police praised Mugabe for his “unparalleled, principled and intuitive leadership.
“We take judicious counsel from his illustrious words,” the police said in a statement.
Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is one of Africa’s longest ruling leaders. He has accepted nomination by his ZANU-PF party to run in the presidential race this year.
His health has been the subject of much speculation, especially since WikiLeaks released a 2008 diplomatic cable saying central bank chief Gideon Gono had told then US ambassador James McGee that Mugabe had prostate cancer, and had been advised by doctors he had less than five years to live.
He was to spend his birthday quietly with his family.
A public rally to celebrate his birthday will be held at a stadium in the northeastern mining town of Bindura on March 2, where festivities will include a concert featuring the country’s top musicians.
Organisers said they plan to raise $600,000 (455,000 euros) for the celebrations.
Mugabe said central bank chief Gideon Gono gave him 89 head of cattle as his birthday gift.