Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai celebrated his 64th birthday yesterday in a private ceremony that sharply contrasted with the lavish 92nd birthday bash thrown by President Robert Mugabe in the drought-torn Masvingo Province.
Although 65 years is the normal retirement age, 60 years is considered the normal retirement age in terms of the National Pension Scheme while those in arduous employment like mining, agriculture and heavy truck driving can have an early retirement at 55 years.
Tsvangirai has led the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) since it was formed in 1999 to challenge Mugabe – the sole ruler since the former Rhodesia gained independence from Britain in 1980 – and his Zanu-PF party.
But the ex-labour union leader has failed to dislodge his nemesis in three elections, although none of them was free or fair, according to the MDC and Western observers.
Tsvangirai spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said the MDC hosted a private function celebrating the former Prime Minister’s birthday.
“We don’t believe in nationalising the birthday of our president as compared to Zanu-PF which held a lavish bash in celebration of their leader’s birthday,” he told the Daily News yesterday.
“To us, we believe that this is a private function. We are hosting a private function to celebrate the birthday of our president and we are going to give him some gifts.
“We cannot hold a lavish birthday party whilst people are struggling to get food, everyone is suffering because of Zanu-PF’s misrule.”
Zanu-PF spend $800 000 at the 92nd birthday bash for Mugabe.
On Wednesday, during a parliamentary question and answer session, Musikavanhu MDC MP Prosper Mutseyami said Zanu-PF should have built hospitals with the money they splurged at Mugabe’s bash.
Mutseyami’s suggestion came after the deputy Health and Child Care minister Aldrin Musiiwa said government did not have adequate financial resources to complete hospitals built in resettlement areas five years ago.
“Since the government is so concerned about the challenges that people are having in rural areas, why they not take the money that is being used by the Vice President who is staying at Rainbow Towers and the money that we used at the president’s birthday; bring those resources together and assist two or three clinics to operate?” Mutseyami said.