AFP – Zimbabwe ex-president Robert Mugabe’s family and the government squabbled over his burial on Thursday, with the place of the ceremony — and even its date — unclear after relatives snubbed a plan for him to be entombed at a national monument.
Mugabe died in Singapore last week aged 95, leaving Zimbabweans torn over the legacy of a leader once lauded as a colonial-era liberation hero, but whose autocratic 37-year rule ended in a coup in 2017.
Tensions erupted after President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government proposed a burial for the former guerrilla fighter 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.
“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.
In a statement, the family accused Mnangagwa’s government of trying to strongarm them into a public funeral against Mugabe’s final wishes.
Some family members are still bitter over Mugabe’s ouster and the role played by Mnangagwa, a long-time ally from their days as guerilla fighters who eventually turned against him.
Mugabe fired Mnangagwa as first vice president in 2017 — a move many perceived as an attempt to position his wife Grace to succeed him after nearly four decades of iron-fisted 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.
Mnangagwa, who praised Mugabe as a national hero, sought to downplay any dispute on Thursday, saying he was still in talks with the deceased leader’s wife.
“We said we will bury him on Sunday, but how, it will decided,” Mnangagwa said, addressing mourners at Mugabe’s Blue Roof residence. “The family will have the final say.”
Leo Mugabe said later there was no feud, claiming only that the funeral would be private for family members only. But he said there was no plan for a burial on Sunday and that the date was still not set
“The obvious situation we are having here is there’s only one Robert Mugabe,” he told reporters. “They (family) don’t want you to know where he is going to be buried.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping, Cuban former 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.