When considering what to get Robert Mugabe for his birthday, one first must understand that Zimbabwe’s president is a man who demands the finest.
His birthday parties don’t cost hundreds of thousands; they cost millions. His parties aren’t attended by thousands, but by tens of thousands. And they don’t eat elephant; they eat baby elephant.
This was the predicament in which one local landowner named Tendai Musasa found himself when figuring out what he would get Mugabe for his 91st birthday party, which cost $1 million and was held this past weekend. “We regard him as our father,” Musasa said to the Los Angeles Times of a leader who has been in power for 35 years and is widely criticized for his human rights record, disastrous economic policies and impoverished citizenry. “Our provider, our hero. We regard him as a very courageous man.”
For such a courageous man, who years ago instituted violent and contentious land-redistribution policies, Musasa would bring out the big guns. He would kill a baby elephant.
But it’s not such a big deal, he said. The elephant was no good anyhow.
“It had grown up [with] a tendency of charging and hostility to farmers,” he explained of his decision on which elephant to slaughter. “They’re going to the ripe corn. They become aggressive, stubborn and unflinching in their attacks. Elephants have got characters, like human beings. … We send a message to the rest of them not to be rogue animals. We put down the most formidable charger or aggressor to say to the rest, ‘Don’t do this thing.’ ”
The elephant wasn’t enough, though. Musasa also submitted for mass consumption two buffaloes, two sables and five impalas. Then there was the lion, shot and mounted. And the crocodile, shot and mounted. Those, Musasa said, weren’t for eating. “I personally identified an old lion, a huge one,” he told the L.A. Times. “If you have studied the dynamics of the lion kingdom, these lions are soon ousted by the pride. They start to pray on farmers’ livestock. They start to be a danger to human lives.”
Then came Saturday, when thousands of Mugabe’s guests descended upon the posh Elephant Hills Hotel in Victoria Falls for an evening of baby elephant and conviviality. As much of the country eked out an existence on the margins, local opposition figures condemned the party as an “obscene jamboree.”
But Mugabe, who will be 94 when the next batch of elections rolls around, wasn’t going to let that ruin his day. Only a grave matter — like, say, a clumsy tumble that was photographed and disseminated under hilarious circumstances — could achieve something like that.
So Mugabe, over a feast of varied exotic animals, took the pulpit to excoriate safaris. “Zimbabwe has lots of safaris, but very few are African,” the leader said, according to the Associated Press. “Most are white-owned. In our region, we have the most safaris and animals. But we are not going to invade those forests.”
The Mugabe screed continued: The United States “can’t have it both ways. … They can’t say ‘allow our people to visit, allow our people to have safaris,’ to kill our lions and take safari trophies to America.”
The attendants, according to reports, agreed with his position of mounting lions and eating elephant and declining to “invade” forests. “Forward with President Mugabe,” they chanted.
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