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Mugabe birthday bash on February 25

President Robert Mugabe's 93rd birthday celebrations will be held on February 25 in Matopos, Matabeleland South, Zanu-PF youth league announced yesterday.

Addressing the media yesterday the league's leader, Kudzanai Chipanga, said "the party is now geared for the event".

"On February 17, we are going to have our fundraising dinner," he said, adding that "preparations of the event are at an advanced staged".

However, he could not disclose how much they targeted to raise.

"On the issue of budget, it is difficult for us to announce the exact budget because . . . this year we asked each province to cater for its own people," Chipanga said.

He added that plans to declare Mugabe birthday a public holiday were at an advanced stage.

This comes as National Youth Service (NYS) graduates - popularly known as green bombers - have described threats by opposition parties and civic groups to mobilise people to boycott the bash, to be held at Rhodes Estate Preparatory School (Reps), as empty.

MDC deputy president Thokozani Khupe and Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) president Joice Mujuru criticised the hosting of the event near Bhalagwe - a Gukurahundi flash spot where thousands of victims are said to have been thrown in a disused mine shaft.

Mujuru has said Mugabe should shoulder the blame as he was the mastermind of the North Korean-trained army unit, Fifth Brigade, which killed an estimated 20 000 people in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.

NYS Bulawayo chapter spokesperson Ndifasi Banda said:  "As the youths, we have heard enough stories about boycott threats.

"Let them be warned that we are not intimidated by such empty statements from opposition parties and civic society."

"If you have realised those are just political grandstanding statements because they urge people to boycott but you won't see them on the ground."

The youth brigade - who in the past have been used to unleash a wave of violence and intimidation against the opposition in previous elections - are trained at Border Gezi, a tented site named after former hard-line Youth minister.

"If they (opposition) become violent, we have enough police to handle that," Banda said, adding that "in fact, the State security agents are alert but if becomes worse we will then intervene".

Banda, who is also a Zanu-PF district chair, said Mugabe was a national leader with a right to hold celebrations in any part of the country.

"Honestly, what these people are saying does not make sense, why bring the past on a celebration. Besides, this issue (Gukurahundi) was addressed when . . . Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo signed a Unity Accord (in 1987). We should be talking of reconciliation rather than opening wounds of the past," he said.

Banda said they were already working with the Zanu-PF Youth League to mobilise over 10 000 youths from the second city to grace the celebrations.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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