The Cable

The Do’s And Don’t’s of Planning Birthday Parties: Robert Mugabe Edition

Who better to guide your birthday party planning than nonagenarian African autocrats?


Planning birthday parties can be stressful. Where should the party be? Should you have it on your birthday or wait until the next available weekend when everyone can come? Should you invite political opponents you’ve thrown into jail?

Luckily, everyone’s favorite geriatric Zimbabwean dictator can help. Robert Mugabe just celebrated turning 93 with a lavishly bizarre birthday bash, providing a helpful blueprint to those planning their own parties.

Somehow Foreign Policy‘s invite to Mugabe’s party got lost in the mail. But nevertheless, FP has tallied up the do’s and don’ts of serious birthday planning.

Do: Make your country spend at least $2 million on your party. This is your day to feel special, and it only comes around once a year. Only weak leaders would spend any less on their birthday bash.

Don’t: Worry about the cost. Even if 72.3 percent if your country lives below the poverty line and your country is on the brink of hyperinflation again, your political allies can just force villagers to shill out money to bankroll the festivities. That way everyone can feel like they’re part of the celebration even if they can’t attend in person.

Do: Force schools to close two days before your party. That way kids have enough time to make their way to the party. Childhood education is overrated, anyway. Unlike your birthday.

Don’t: Eat American chips while banning an entire country from importing Western food.

Do: Wear a suit that has your face plastered all over it. What’s the point in celebrating if you can’t celebrate in style?

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Don’t: Let your age make you feel old. Age is really just a number, and 93 is the new 30, right? Especially for Mugabe, who said he was resurrected more times than Jesus Christ. If anyone questions your health when you’re turning 93, just arrest them. Problem solved. Back to the party.

Do: Celebrate your 93rd birthday with a 200-lb. cake. Don’t worry about your country’s severe food shortages or the 80 to 90 percent unemployment rate. Oh, and also have a second cake that looks like your favorite Mercedes-Benz limousine.

Do: Advertise your birthday. That helps boost attendance to avoid those awkward situations where you thought 20 people were going show up but only four or five did. For example, Zimbabwe’s state-owned newspaper the Herald ran a gushing 24-page congratulatory birthday message for Mugabe. If you don’t own any propaganda outlets yourself, a Facebook event page should suffice.

Don’t: Slaughter elephants to feed your guests. That rather grotesque gaffe happened two years ago. FP recommends serving lighter appetizers instead, such as chips and guacamole.

Do: Praise Donald Trump. The key ingredient in the recipe for a perfect birthday toast. (It’s hard not to talk about politics these days, anyway). “Well America for America, America for Americans, on that we agree. Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans,” Mugabe said at his birthday celebration. Can your birthday toast top that?

Don’t: Speak for more than an hour. A minute or two is long enough for a toast. That way your political acolytes can get back to the festivities — like quietly bickering over who gets to fill the power vacuum after your death.


Correction, Feb. 27, 2017: Mugabe served his birthday guests elephant in 2015. A previous version of this article mistakenly said it occurred last year.

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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