President Robert Mugabe. Picture: REUTERS
President Robert Mugabe. Picture: REUTERS

HARARE — The world’s oldest leader, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe turned 92 on Sunday, with no plans to step down as feuding over his successors threatens to tear his ruling Zanu (PF) apart.

The veteran leader will mark the day with a public celebration on Saturday.

Last year’s party was a huge feast with several elephants slaughtered and seven gigantic birthday cakes, one weighing 91kg. On Sunday, state media lauded Mr Mugabe for his leadership since independence from Britain in 1980, while the opposition urged him to consider stepping down.

In its 16-page special birthday supplement, the Sunday Mail described Mr Mugabe as a "doyen of pan-Africanism".

"Thank You Bob, We now have a voice, since 1980," said the paper on its front cover.

"Long live comrade Mugabe" read another message, adding, "We pride ourselves in your visionary, bold, insightful and fearless leadership."

But the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said Mr Mugabe should think about whether his country, which is in the grips of an economic crisis, would not be better served by his bowing out.

"Robert Mugabe should take time to reflect and say isn’t it time for me to pass on the baton," MDC spokesman Obert Gutu said.

Mr Mugabe once quipped that he would rule until he turned 100.

Despite his advanced age and recent speculation over his health, Mr Mugabe has avoided naming a successor, prompting perennial infighting among rival factions in his ruling ZANU (PF) party jostling for his post.

Despite his age, he continues to give lengthy speeches in public, but his frailty was laid bare last year when he tripped and fell down steps at a televised ceremony.

He also courted ridicule in September by reading a speech to parliament, apparently unaware that he had delivered the same address a month earlier.

His government is accused of systematic human rights abuses and tipping the country into a severe crisis through a campaign of violent land seizures.

Born on February 21 1924, Mr Mugabe trained as a teacher and taught in what was then Rhodesia and Ghana before returning home to join the guerrilla war against white minority rule. He became prime minister on Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980 and then president in 1987.

AFP