HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe wound up a week of celebrations marking his 88th birthday with a lavish gathering Saturday, where he urged the nation’s youth to shun Western values, homosexuality and greed.
Mugabe, hosting a celebration in the eastern city of Mutare, said some African leaders have become “weak and naive” and thought only of material gains when “kneeling” to Westerners.
Organizers from his ZANU-PF party said 20,000 people gathered at a Mutare sports stadium Saturday for his annual bash targeted at the country’s youth.
A cake baked in Harare was taken to Mutare under police escort, and livestock were slaughtered for the event.
Regional Mugabe party official Charles Samuriwo didn’t comment on estimates that the tab for the occasion had reached nearly $1 million. He told reporters that businesses made “sufficient” donations and “no one will go back home on an empty stomach.”
In a nationwide broadcast of the event, Mugabe said it was up to the young to “carry the torch in the future” and maintain a high standard of moral and sexual behavior. He said that unacceptable Western values included same-sex marriages.
“We reject that outright and say to hell with you,” he said in a nationwide broadcast of the event.
“You are free as a man to marry a woman and that is what we follow. That’s what produced you and me,” he said. “This kind of insanity is now part of the culture” of Europe and the United States, he added.
Mugabe told Zimbabwe’s young that the fight against Western influence still had to be fought.
“You must go to the head of the imperialist and knock out his brain,” he said, cautioning them also against to “any love for money than is greater than your political conscience.”
In nearly four hours of birthday broadcasts this week, Mugabe said he would call elections this year to end a shaky coalition government with the former opposition of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai, who was not in Mutare, insisted Friday that elections can only be held next year after constitutional and election reforms have been completed.
Mugabe said Saturday those opposing early polls “know they will lose if we go to elections this year.”
Tsvangirai on Friday described the three-year coalition with Mugabe, formed after disputed and violent elections in 2008, as a “painful and sorrowful experience” and said he will “resist” elections being held in 2012.
He said Mugabe wasn’t to be trusted in power-sharing as “we have a president who indicates left and turns right.”
Mugabe, whose birthday was Tuesday, said he had been showered with gifts, blessings and prayers from home and abroad, and that support from his countrymen “warms my heart and invigorates me.”