Zimbabwe has declared President Robert Mugabe’s birthday on February 21 a national holiday, a state daily reported on Saturday, honouring the veteran politician in power since 1980 who opponents accuse of brutal repression and devastating the economy.
The declaration of the Robert Mugabe National Youth Day came after lobbying by the ruling Zanu-PF party’s youth league.
"In declaring this day, we would like to highlight to our youths the values and principles so brilliantly displayed by President R.G. Mugabe which have resulted in an exemplary life that our youths can emulate," state-owned Herald newspaper quoted home affairs minister Ignatius Chombo as saying.
He said the cabinet made the decision after years of lobbying by the ruling party which also said it wants the country’s main airport named after Mugabe.
Last week the cash-strapped government announced plans to build a $1 billion Robert Mugabe university, joining several other facilities named after him including the government’s school of intelligence, a main street in the capital Harare and the highway to his rural home.
Mugabe, now 93 years old, first came to power after Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain. He says he plans to contest elections due next year despite his advanced age and concerns over his frail health.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been run down, with output halved since 2000, while many basic services have collapsed and government salaries use up more than 90% of all public revenue.
Opposition parties are in talks to try to unite and field one candidate to oppose Mugabe in the next presidential poll.
Past elections however have been tainted by violence and intimidation by Zanu-PF operatives.