Zimbabwe declares Mugabe’s birthday national holiday

Harare: Just two days after Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa hailed Robert Mugabe as his father, mentor, comrade-in-arms and leader, the government declared Mugabe’s birthday a public holiday, state daily Herald said on Monday.

While the government had already agreed on the holiday proposal in August bowing to the demands of Zanu-PF Youth League, it became official only on Friday, the paper said.

On November 9 this year, the Harare International Airport was renamed after Mugabe. The ruling party said an iconic war-hero like him deserved the honour. The Opposition viewed it an insult to the nation.

In early August this year, the government announced plans to build a $1bn university to honour Mugabe when the cash-strapped country badly needed funds for development projects to put the economy back on track. Even after Mugabe’s recent resignation, his wife Grace is pushing for the university.

In October 2007, the government launched Robert Mugabe National School of Intelligence to produce officers who can counter the designs of western powers to destabilise Zimbabwe by using non-state players. Mugabe’s critics said such intelligence, instead of shaping foreign, security and economic policies, would be used by Mugabe only to foil rivals’ attempts to unseat him.

In Harare, there is a Robert Mugabe Square. A road leading to it is named after his wife. Several buildings and roads across the country are also named after Mugabe.

Opposition leaders allege his misplaced priorities have ruined the economy leading acute poverty and unemployment.

While most Zimbabweans welcome the end of Mugabe’s autocratic rule, many are sceptical of the new president’s promises of ushering in democratic reforms. Mnangagwa is going to pick a new team to run the country and things may improve if he chooses the right people.