Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has marked turning 90 by urging his country to shun homosexuality at a birthday rally.

“We don’t accept homosexuality here. God made men and women so they can bear children,” said Mugabe on Sunday, at the event in Marondera, 75 kilometres (45 miles) east of Harare.

Africa’s longest-serving leader gave his trademark clenched fist salute to the crowd.

He also condemned gay people for performing what he called “unnatural acts”.

Mugabe’s actual birthday was on 21 February but he was away in Singapore for a “cataract operation” on his left eye, according to his office. He returned to Zimbabwe on Saturday.

The cost of the birthday celebration – estimated at about $1m (£600,000) – has prompted criticism in a country suffering from severe economic problems.

Mugabe is a staunch promoter of homophobic persecution.

He marked his 88th birthday party in February 2012 by urging gay people to go to “hell” in a public speech.

The Zanu PF leader branded Archbishop Desmond Tutu “evil” in July 2013 for speaking out in favour of gay rights.

Mugabe also urged for the heads of gay men to be chopped off and said gay people were worse than “pigs, goats and birds” during a speech to Zanu PF supporters in the same month.