Zimbabwe’s founding President, Robert Mugabe will be buried on Sunday, September 15, having passed on last week in Singapore, at the age of 95.
Having ruled the Southern African nation for 37 years, until he was ousted by the army in November 2017, Mugabe’s legacy continues to divide opinions at home and abroad.
The government and his family also reportedly involved in discussions over the location of his final resting place. While the government wants to bury him in the National Heroes’ Acre, the family is reportedly opposed to the idea, arguing that Mugabe had since fallen out with the current regime.
Mugabe to be buried at Heroes’ Acre
The family of former Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe have agreed to bury him at a monument for national heroes in Harare, the family said on Friday, though the date for the ceremony remained unclear.
“Yes I can confirm,” his nephew Leo Mugabe told reporters when asked whether the family had agreed to a burial at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.
He said the traditional chiefs in Mugabe’s homestead had made the decision.
“They have now pronounced their position, so if they have pronounced that the burial will be at the Heroes Acre, that means that we now have to wait for the details… whether it will be a private burial or a public one.”
A government spokesman did not immediately respond.
Matare Mudzinge, a traditional leader from Mugabe’s village in Zvimba area, confirmed the decision.
Tensions erupted when Mnangagwa’s government proposed a burial at the National Heroes Acre while the family said he would be buried at a private ceremony, possibly in his homestead of Kutama, northwest of the capital.
Family speaks out on Mugabe burial
Robert Mugabe’s family said on Thursday that Zimbabwe’s ex-president will be buried early next week in his village and not at a national monument for liberation heroes.
The family of Mugabe, who died in Singapore last week, and Zimbabwe’s government have been at odds over whether he would be buried in his homestead in Kutama, northwest of Harare, or at the National Heroes Acre in the capital.
“His body will lie in state at Kutama on Sunday night…followed by a private burial—either Monday or Tuesday—no National Heroes Acre. That’s the decision of the whole family,” his nephew Leo Mugabe told AFP.
Some family members are still bitter over his ouster, and the role his former ally Mnangagwa played. Mugabe fired Mnangagwa in 2017, in what many believed was an attempt to position his wife Grace to succeed him.
The family issued a statement saying it was concerned about the manner in which the government was preparing the programme for Mugabe’s funeral “without consulting his immediate family”.
The family “also observed with shock that the Government of Zimbabwe is attempting to coerce us to accept a programme for funeral and burial” which was contrary to Mugabe’s wishes, the statement said.
“We are ready and willing to work with the government to develop a programme for the funeral and burial of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe which is in conformance to his wishes on how his mortal remains will be interred,” the family said.
Mugabe was ousted by protesters and the military soon after.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, former Cuban leader Raul Castro and a dozen African presidents, including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, are among those expected to attend Mugabe’s state funeral on Saturday in Harare.
MDC suspends celebrations
The MDC said in a statement on Wednesday that it had postponed its 20th anniversary rally because of Mugabe’s funeral.
It said: “Notwithstanding our legendary differences with Mr. Mugabe, we have no reason to exhibit barbarity by hosting a national festivity during his funeral.”
Mugabe left behind an economy wrecked by hyperinflation and deeply entrenched corruption, and a raging political rivalry between ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC.
Mugabe’s body arrives in Zimbabwe
Former president Robert Mugabe’s body arrived at the country’s main airport on Wednesday, but his final resting place remained a source of mystery amid a dispute between some family members and the government.
The former president’s body arrived at Harare’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport shortly after 1330 GMT, a Reuters witness said.
Crowds had gathered at the airport well before the scheduled arrival time, with some people wearing T-shirts bearing Mugabe’s face and others with Mnangagwa’s image, while music blared from loudspeakers.
A convoy of 4×4 vehicles with number plates bearing the letters “RG Mugabe” and the former leader’s signature were also on the runway.
Mugabe’s wife Grace and Zimbabwean Vice President Kembo Mohadi were among those accompanying the body of the former leader on the plane, Leo Mugabe, a nephew and family spokesman, said. Mnangagwa, top officials and other Mugabe family members were at the airport to receive the body.
On Thursday, ordinary Zimbabweans and supporters are expected to pay their last respects to Mugabe at a Harare soccer stadium, where the body will lie in state before being taken to his rural home in Kutama, 85 km (52 miles) from the capital, the family spokesman said.
Bringing Mugabe’s body home
A family spokesperson confirmed on Monday that a plane left Zimbabwe for Singapore carrying government officials and relatives to bring home the body of Robert Mugabe.
Leo Mugabe, the late president’s nephew and family spokesman, said a charter plane left Harare for Singapore just after 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Monday.
Mugabe’s body was expected to arrive in Zimbabwe on Wednesday at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT), Leo Mugabe told Reuters.
Burial program announced
Zimbabwe’s presidency announced on Sunday that the country’s former president, Robert Mugabe is scheduled to be buried on Sunday, September 15, in a location yet to be determined.
“His remains are expected on Wednesday afternoon (in Zimbabwe). The official funeral is scheduled for Saturday, his funeral will take place on Sunday (next),” President George Charamba told AFP, adding that the place of his funeral would be determined by his family.
Since his death, discussions between his family and the government about how to organize his funeral have been taking place.
Mugabe’s family is pushing back against the government’s plan to bury him at the National Heroes Acre monument in Harare and wants him to be interred in his home village, relatives have told Reuters.
When pressed on where Mugabe would be buried, Leo Mugabe was non-committal.
“Mugabe was a chief and he will be buried in accordance with tradition. The chiefs have not told us where he will be buried, so it is not clear yet. I also don’t know,” he said.
In some parts of Zimbabwe, burials of chiefs are a secret affair and people are only told the resting place afterwards.
Mugabe’s resting place has been a topic of discussion since the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported last month that Mugabe would snub the offer of a burial at National Heroes Acre – a site reserved for the country’s heroes – because he felt bitter about the way he was removed from power.
The Zimbabwean government said in a memo sent to embassies that it planned to hold a state funeral for Mugabe in the National Sports Stadium on Saturday, with a burial ceremony on Sunday, but it did not say where the burial would be.
If Mugabe is buried in Kutama village, 85 km (50 miles) from Harare, it would be a major rebuke for his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the ruling ZANU-PF party that Mugabe helped to found.
Zimbabwe declared Robert Mugabe a national hero on Friday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said, and the country would be in national mourning until the former leader was buried.
Tributes and reactions
Revered by many as a liberator who freed his people from white minority rule, Mugabe was vilified by others for wrecking one of Africa’s most promising economies and ruthlessly crushing his opponents.
Most residents in downtown Harare said on Saturday that they were saddened by Mugabe’s death since he was their liberator and had broadened access to education.
“Even now we have livestock we keep in the rural areas because of him, so it’s painful to lose our father, our grandfather who helped us to learn and go to school,” said Tongai Huni, a fruit vendor.
Others expressed anger that Mugabe had left the economy in a sorry state, with hyperinflation and mass unemployment.
“We are just trying to deal with … the harm that he did,” said Margaret Shumba, another Harare resident.
Mugabe died on Friday aged 95 in Singapore, where he had long received medical treatment. He had dominated Zimbabwean politics for almost four decades from independence in 1980 until he was removed by his own army in a November 2017 coup.