Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party on Wednesday started its annual conference that will gobble up millions of dollars at a time when almost half of the country’s population faces hunger.
The ruling party said more than 50 cows would be slaughtered for the conference feast, despite the country experiencing its worst food crisis in decades.
The UN says 8-million people are at risk of food insecurity in Zimbabwe.
The government has appealed for food aid and international efforts are under way to ease shortages.
Zimbabwe is also plagued by triple digit inflation above 300% — the second-highest in the world after Venezuela. There is an acute shortage of foreign currency, fuel, electricity, drugs and basic commodities.
Public hospitals are barely functioning as doctors have been on strike for the past 100 days.
Yet 10,000 party delegates are set to attend the conference to rubber stamp President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s leadership of Zanu-PF and for him to consolidate power.
Mnangagwa, who took over from Robert Mugabe, has failed to live up to his promise to improve the lives of Zimbabweans.
During the conference, Mnangagwa is expected to press for the party to confirm his candidacy as president in 2023 and shut out any possibility of a coalition government with popular opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
On Wednesday the conference officially started with a meeting of the politburo, the party’s highest ranking body, in Harare.
The party’s central committee meets again on Thursday before festivities open at Goromonzi High School, about 30km east of Harare, on Friday.
Mnangagwa said after the politburo meeting: “I am positive that adequate preparations have been made to ensure that we have a successful conference. This defining conference must be used to further mobilise our people.
Mnangagwa narrowly beat the Movement for Democratic Change’s Chamisa in the July 2018 election but the opposition leader has maintained that the poll was rigged.
Despite Zimbabwe’s economic crisis, Zanu-PF commands huge support in rural areas where food handouts are often contingent on Zanu-FP membership.
The ANC is expected to send a delegation in solidarity with Zanu-PF, which has ruled the country since independence in 1980.
Mnangagwa came to power in November 2017 after Mugabe was forced to resign following an army coup.