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24.02.2008 Zimbabwe

Mugabe to launch six term bid at his 84th birthday bash

By GBC News

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is expected to launch his campaign for a sixth term in power at celebrations marking his 84th birthday. Thousands are expected at the rally in the southern border town of Beitbridge. Launching his manifesto in the eastern town of Mutare, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, said Zimbabwe Is bleeding under "dictatorship".

Zimbabwe is suffering an economic crisis, with annual inflation of 100,000%, and unemployment at 80%. There are also severe food and fuel shortages. The presidential, legislative, senate and local council polls are scheduled for 29 March.

Mr Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980. Mr Tsvangirai - who leads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) - is one of three candidates challenging him in next month's presidential poll. The others are independent candidates - former Finance Minister Simba Makoni and Langton Towungana.

Mr Makoni, 58, has pledged to turn round the country's economic fortunes if elected. He has been expelled from the ruling Zanu-PF party, and Mr Mugabe has compared him to a prostitute.

Reports says Mr Mugabe's annual birthday celebration is always a lavish occasion, and the state media have poured adulation on the Zimbabwean president this week. Across the border in South Africa, Zimbabwean exiles have been staging an anti-Mugabe demonstration. Roy Bennett of the MDC addressed the crowd of about 200 exiled Zimbabwean activists. "After 28 years, a man who is now 84 years old is having a birthday party. A birthday party while everybody around him is starving and dying." he added

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