Zimbabweans queue to pay their last respects at a viewing of the remains of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, under canopy, at the Rufaro Stadium in Harare. Picture: Themba Hadebe/AP
Zimbabweans queue to pay their last respects at a viewing of the remains of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, under canopy, at the Rufaro Stadium in Harare. Picture: Themba Hadebe/AP

Ramaphosa to join 60 000 others for Mugabe state funeral, as burial delayed for a month

By MacDonald Dzirutwe And Alexander Winning Time of article published Sep 14, 2019

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Harare - African heads of state and envoys are gathering to attend a state funeral for Zimbabwe's founding president, Robert Mugabe, whose burial has been delayed for at least a month until a special mausoleum can be built for his remains.

The service and viewing of the body of Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore at 95, will be at the National Sports Stadium in the capital, Harare, and comes following the announcement by the Mugabe family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa that his burial will be postponed until a new edifice for his body can be constructed at the national Heroes' Acre monument.

More than 10 African leaders and several former presidents are expected to attend Saturday's ceremony at the 60,000-capacity stadium.

Heads of state expected to attend the funeral include South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta. 

Ramaphosa would be accompanied by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor; Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula: Minister of Police Bheki Cele; and Minister of State Security Ayanda Dlodlo, the presidency said.

"The president’s attendance signifies South Africa’s regard and gratitude for the role played by the late former president Mugabe in his capacity as leader of Zimbabwe’s pre-independence liberation movement and as president of the Republic of Zimbabwe in support of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid," the presidency said in a statement.

Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until he was ousted

by his own army in November 2017, died in a Singapore hospital a

week ago aged 95.

A fight over his burial place has threatened to undermine

his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe's former

deputy who conspired to topple him, and expose deep rifts in the

governing ZANU-PF party.

Mugabe's nephew said on Friday that he will be buried at National Heroes Acre, a Zimbabwean national shrine in Harare in about 30 days, contradicting comments earlier in the day that the burial will be on Sunday.

"The government and the chiefs went to the Heroes Acre,

showed each other where President Mugabe is going to be buried,

and that place would take about 30 days to complete," said Leo

Mugabe, a nephew of the former president who has acted as a

spokesman for the family.

"So what that means is the burial will take that long," he

said.

Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party have wanted Mugabe

buried at a national monument to heroes of the liberation war

against white minority rule. Such a ceremony could give

Mnangagwa a chance to show that the party is united behind his

political and economic agenda.

But some relatives, expressing bitterness at the way former

comrades including Mnangagwa had ousted Mugabe, had pushed for

him to be buried in his home village rather than at the shrine.

Mugabe's body will be preserved until the burial, Leo Mugabe

said.

Asked whether a mausoleum or similar structure would be

built for Mugabe, the nephew said: "Yes, something like that",

also disclosing that the burial site will not be next to the one

of the former president's first wife Sally, who died in 1992.

"It's a totally different site," he said.

Mugabe's body arrived in Zimbabwe from Singapore on

Wednesday and started three days of lying in state on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo told Reuters that the

confusion over Mugabe's burial place had arisen because the

government could reach an agreement with close family members

only once they returned to Zimbabwe with the body.

He said it was fitting for Mugabe to be interred at National

Heroes Acre because it "symbolises the greatest honour one can

be bestowed with and it can only be a place where men and women

who have contributed to the liberation of this country...can be

buried."

During his near four-decades rule, Mugabe used his powers to

bestow or deny former comrades the privilege to be buried at

National Heroes Acre.

Mugabe's body was displayed for a second day on Friday at

Rufaro soccer stadium in Harare's Mbare township, where

thousands of mourners filed past the open coffin.

Reuters, AP and ANA

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