|Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addresses the crowd during celebrations to mark his 90th birthday at Marondera, 75 km from Harare, Zimbabwe, February 23, 2014. Mugabe, who turned 90 on Friday, reinforcing his record as Africa's oldest president and one of the longest reigning on the continent. (Xinhua/Stringer) |
MARONDERA, Zimbabwe, Feb. 23 -- Zimbabwe's veteran President Robert Mugabe on Sunday celebrated his 90th birthday with tens of thousands of Zimbabweans, a milestone that no other founding fathers of African nations has achieved in office.
One of Africa's most prominent anti-apartheid fighter Mugabe has been the leader of Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, and having ruled 34 years, he is Africa's oldest leader and one of the continent's longest reign president.
"I feel as youthful and energetic as a boy of nine. I drop the zero now," Mugabe said, triggering a round of applause from Zimbabweans who gathered at the open ground of a stadium in Marondera, 75 km southeast of the national capital Harare.
He said leading a healthy life devoid of smoking and beer drinking had greatly helped him to live this far.
As in past years, Mugabe threw balloons and cut the colorful and gigantic birthday cake with his family -- wife Grace Mugabe and their children -- while entertainers danced and sang throughout the day. The event was organized by the ruling Zanu-PF party with estimated cost of 1 million U.S. dollars.
But this year suspicion around the nonagenarian leader's health was aroused as he only returned to Zimbabwe on Saturday, a day after his actual birthday on Feb. 21. Officials said Mugabe had traveled to Singapore to have cataract removed from his left eye.
On Sunday, Mugabe displaced no visible signs of illness and delivered his signature firebrand speech for over an hour.
He took aims at the opposition party, the West that imposed sanctions on the country, withdrawing most of the official aid since the turn of the century.
"The British -- we don't hate you, we only love our country. We love our freedom," Mugabe said.
He also criticized opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai for allowing violence in his MDC-T party.
"It is said Tsvangirai himself told the youths to beat the leaders. We cannot have a party of that nature coming into government, even allowing them to dominate possession of parliament seats in our urban areas," Mugabe told the congregants, many of whom were school children. "You don't raise your hand to hit your senior, never ever. You may quarrel but the best you c