By Frank Kamuntu
The family of former Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe have agreed to bury him at a monument for national heroes in Harare, a family spokesman said on Friday, although the date for the ceremony is still unclear.
It has now been confirmed that Mugabe will be buried in the Heroes Acre, as Zanu-PF wants, although he didn’t want this in his dying wish.
Yesterday the family insisted he would be buried next week in his village, delivering an apparent snub to government plans to bury him at a national monument. However, they have since succumbed to government pressure.
Mugabe died in Singapore last week aged 95, leaving Zimbabweans torn over the legacy of a leader once lauded as an anti-colonial guerrilla hero, but whose 37-year iron-fisted rule ended in a coup in 2017.
“Yes I can confirm,” Leo Mugabe told reporters when asked whether the family had agreed to a burial in National Heroes Acre in Harare.
He said the traditional chiefs in Mugabe’s homestead had made that 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.”
Tension erupted after president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government proposed a burial at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, while the family said he would be buried at a private ceremony, possibly in his homestead of Kutama, northwest of the capital.
The former leader had been travelling to Singapore regularly for medical treatment but allies say his health deteriorated rapidly after his ouster.
Mugabe’s body arrived from Singapore on Wednesday at Harare airport.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, Cuban former leader Raul Castro and a dozen African presidents, including Cyril Ramaphosa, are among those expected to attend Mugabe’s state funeral on Saturday in Harare.
However, some family members are still bitter over Mugabe’s ouster and the role his former ally Mnangagwa played.
Mugabe fired Mnangagwa as first vice president in 2017, a move many perceived as an attempt to position his wife Grace Mugabe to succeed him after nearly four decades of iron-fist rule.
Soon after, Mugabe was toppled by protesters and the army in what was seen as part of a power struggle within the ruling ZANU-PF party between pro-Mnangagwa factions and Mugabe loyalists siding with his wife Grace.
The former leader had been travelling to Singapore regularly for medical treatment, but his health deteriorated rapidly after his ousting, which allies say left him a “broken soul”.
Mnangagwadeclared Mugabe a national hero after his death, indicating he should be buried at the monument for his role as a founding father. But the family said traditional chiefs in his homestead in the Zvimba region should decide.
“We had many differences, but beyond the differences that we had politically to serve our people, we have to reflect on his contribution,” said MDC opposition party leader Nelson Chamisa, visiting Grace at the residence.
Mugabe hoisted the new Zimbabwe flag and lit the independence flame on April 18, 1980 — bringing hope for a new era after a long insurgency.
But many Zimbabweans will remember his tyrannical leadership and economic mismanagement that forced millions to escape a country crippled by hyper-inflation and shortages of food, drugs and fuel.
Zimbabweans still struggle to survive, with a once-vaunted public health system now in shambles and the economy still in crisis.
Mnangagwa is under pressure after promising to attract investment and create jobs in a post-Mugabe era, with little success.
A massive fuel price hike this year sparked off nationwide protests which left at least 17 people dead after soldiers opened fire.