Photograph — AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is infamous for quite a number of things including his disdain for those who identify as queer or are questioning their sexual identity (LGBTQ’s). He constantly declares his position at every given opportunity and his recent 92nd lavish birthday bash was no exception.

Zimbabwe used to be one of South-Africa’s most productive and resilient countries, but that has changed over the past decade due to a series of political and economic crises. Currently, more than a quarter of the country’s population face a shortage of food as they have been hit by severe drought which has left thousands of cattle dead, crops destroyed and reservoirs depleted. Yet, the power drunk leader has come out to say that he won’t accept foreign aid if it comes with a provision that Zimbabwe accepts marriage equality.

Early this year, Zimbabwe applied for $1.6 billion in food aid to combat starvation, but during his lavish birthday party on Saturday, Mugabe declared, “We don’t want it.” According to him, if aid is to be given on the basis that the country accepts the principle of gay marriages, “then let that aid stay where it is,” adding that aid given under such a condition is “rotten and filthy.”

Although it seems like Africa’s oldest president always seeks the slightest opportunity to cast shade on the West, or what Reuters described as “a characteristic gibe” at Western countries, Mugabe’s outburst is understandable since the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, threatened countries that violate LGBT rights with losing aid payments unless they reform, back in 2011. Also, President Obama had instructed that gay rights be used as criterion for US aid allocations to needy countries.

Uganda suffered foreign aid cuts after it enacted anti-gay laws in 2014 with three European countries withdrawing millions of dollars in direct support to the government and the World Bank delaying a loan of $90 million to the country. The law was eventually overturned by Uganda’s Constitutional Court.

But if this were to be the case with Zimbabwe, the fact that Mugabe would allow his people starve to death over the issue of marriage equality says much about the character of the nonagenarian. Mugabe himself declared a state of disaster in rural areas hit by severe drought including the Masvingo region, where his lavish party was held. Mugabe and his supporters spent a whopping $800,000 on cake, balloons and everything else in Masvingo, where over 70 percent of the staple maize crop have been destroyed by drought, leaving a large percentage of its population hungry. Talk about callous irony.

If Zimbabweans are subjected to further hunger and starvation, which may very well be the case, it wouldn’t just be because their president is not mindful of his words, but also because he is insensitive to the plight of his people. President Mugabe should not expect benevolence from foreign organizations, a quality that he obviously does not possess, as the money squandered on his party could have been spent on alleviating the suffering of his people. “The money that is being budgeted for this ill-conceived birthday bash should actually be used to import maize to avert the impending starvation in Masvingo province and other parts of the country,” a spokesman for the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change said.

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