'He was an intellectual giant': African leaders praise Robert Mugabe
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Harare - Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s official state funeral service had it all, except the actual burial and thousands of empty seats at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.
There was drama, tears, jeers and cheers, while some fainted in the sun because of the scorching Harare heat.
President Cyril Ramaphosa was booed as he stepped up to deliver a tribute to Mugabe.
But the president managed to sway the crowd when he apologised to Zimbabweans for the violent attacks some of their peers had fallen victim to in Gauteng two weeks ago. He told the mourners that most of the victims were in fact South African.
“I stand before you to apologise for what has happened in our country,” Ramaphosa said to cheers.
“What has happened in South Africa goes against the unity of the African people that Mugabe, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela stood for.
“Fellow Zimbabweans, fellow Africans, we are working hard to encourage all our people to embrace people from all African countries,” said Ramaphosa to more cheers.
He veered from his prepared speech and told mourners South Africans were not xenophobic.
“We will work hard to promote social cohesion to live side by side with people from other parts of the continent in the spirit of Mugabe which he worked hard for all his life,” he said.
Ramaphosa was accompanied by former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, who all sat under the same VVIP tent.
Cabinet ministers Bheki Cele, Ayanda Dlodlo, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Naledi Pandor were also at the funeral.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa played his hand and declared the government would never reverse Mugabe’s land reform policy of 2000.
“Our land reform will never be reversed. It is sacred. Now the challenge for us is to be productive as we modernise our processes. We must use our land sustainably whether it be for mining or agriculture,” he said.
Mnangagwa also offered an olive branch to Grace Mugabe and said she had his and the government’s support.
“Allow me to thank the former first lady, Grace Mugabe, for looking after our father and caring for our commander through his illness, right through to the end.
“The love you exemplified is admirable. Siyabonga, mama,” he said.
On Mugabe’s burial, the family said on Friday he would be buried “within 30 days” at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.
However, the family earlier indicated it wanted him to be buried in his rural home town of Zvimba, 80km away from Harare.
Presidents who spoke at Mugabe’s funeral described him as a unifying pan-Africanist leader, a visionary, an educationist and a relentless champion for the African people.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Mugabe left an indelible mark in the history of Zimbabwe through his political astuteness and zeal for the liberation of Africa.
“The onus is now on us to keep the hope alive and deliver on the dream of a truly free and prosperous Africa.
“He was an intellectual giant who was firm and steadfast regarding challenges facing the continent.
“He would say we need to find African solutions to African problems.
“As African leaders we should continue to champion African interests.
“He was an icon of the African political and economic liberation struggle,” said Kenyatta.