The Zimbabwean government has directed that schools in the second biggest city, Bulawayo, be closed on Thursday and Friday (February 23 and 24) as part of plans in preparations for the birthday celebration of President Robert Mugabe.

The state-owned Chronicle newspaper said Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Lazarus Dokora, issued the directive on Wednesday.

The Ministry’s Permanent Secretary is said to have also confirmed that pupils in Bulawayo and four schools in Matabeleland South are to stay at home to pave way for preparations.

President Mugabe clocked 93-years on Tuesday but there was only a low-key celebration at the presidency as the main event was pushed to Saturday, February 25, 2017, at Matopos, 500 km (350 miles) southwest of the capital, Harare.

Mugabe, who has maintained a tight grip on power in the southern African nation since independence from Britain in 1980, is due to stand for re-election next year, saying the ruling party has no viable alternative candidates.

The state-owned Herald newspaper carried a 24-page birthday supplement, packed with goodwill messages from government departments.