Insufferable Kings and Their Intolerable Birthday Parties

Insufferable Kings and Their Intolerable Birthday Parties

Robert Mugabe, reading an over-sized birthday card, has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980.

Photo: AP.


She probably never actually said that dehumanizing phrase: "Let them eat cake." But Marie Antoinette, the eighteenth-century Queen of France and modern icon of wealth and fashion, symbolized the sentiment.

Notwithstanding, Robert Mugabe is trying hard to give her a run for her money (and diamonds). In a New York Times article describing his extravagant 92nd birthday party, cake—a 200-pounder, in fact—is juxtaposed against the people's need for bread: many Zimbabweans face drought, a poor harvest and the continued effects of a struggling economy.

Zimbabwe's state-run newspaper apparently hailed Mugabe's birthday like that of Jesus Christ's, as if "The Feeding of the Five Thousand" featured cake and fish. Meanwhile, a youth leader within Mugabe's governing political party called him "Africa's Moses," referring to his role in leading the people out of British bondage.

For his part, Mugabe is quoted as saying that he will rule "until God says 'come.'" Or until the people say, "Leave."

(OK, he did not say that last part.)

But, in one sentence, a bus driver captured what often serves as inedible filling inside a royal cake:

It is amazing that a president presiding over a state which fails to pay its workers on time, a country with a sea of poverty and going through one of the worst droughts in living memory and hunger, can see it fit to spend a million dollars celebrating his life, which has meant nothing but suffering for us.
— Caleb Moyo, a 34-year-old Zimbabwean, on Robert Mugabe


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