State media praise money printing president on birthday as people burn from inflation

HARARE, Feb 21, 2007 (AFP) – Zimbabwe’s state-run media lavished praise on veteran President Robert Mugabe on the 83rd birthday of Africa’s oldest-serving leader Wednesday, while stores in the capital Harare ran out of bread. “President an unparalled visionary,” read the headline of The Herald newspaper, which dedicated 16 pages to pictures and congratulatory messages to the man who has ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1980.

The defence ministry took out a half-page advert in the same paper in which a procession of military chiefs lined up to laud Mugabe for his “heroic guidance and leadership during and after the liberation struggle.”

But as constant refrains of the song “God bless President Mugabe” rang out on state radio, the impact of the economic crisis being presided over by the president came into focus as bakers halted bread production.

A lavish party is due to be held on Saturday in the city of Gweru to celebrate Mugabe but critics say the traditional birthday bash is particularly ill-conceived this year with much of the population now forced to skip meals.

With inflation running at nearly 1,600 percent and much of the public sector on strike, the opposition Movement for Democra