Family, government differ over Mugabe burial plan

Visitors embrace as they leave Singapore Casket, the funeral parlour where the body of the late former Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is being held in Singapore, September 8, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim

The family of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is pushing back against government plans to bury him at the National Heroes Acre monument in Harare and wants him to be buried in his home village instead.

A youth pushes a cart loaded with maize for sale nearby a mural depicting Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe, after hearing the news of his death, in Mbare in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe, September 6, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

The Zimbabwean government said in a memo sent to embassies on Sunday 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 held.

The choice of 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.

If Mugabe is buried in Kutama village, 85 km (52 miles) from Harare, it would be a major rebuke of his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the ruling ZANU-PF party that Mugabe helped to found.

According to Reuters, a Mugabe relative who is helping with funeral arrangements said the family had compromised by agreeing to have a state funeral led by the government on Saturday but is insisting that Mugabe would be buried at Kutama, his place of birth.

The relative, speaking from Singapore, asked not to be named.

Two other relatives in Zimbabwe also said the family had agreed that Mugabe, affectionately known as “Mudhara” (Old man in the Shona language) by his supporters, would be buried at Kutama.

“The family has made a decision that Mudhara will be buried at Kutama – that is the position – but the government is still engaging the family to try to have him buried at (National) Heroes Acre,” the relative in Singapore told Reuters.

“What is clear is that there is no agreement on the place of burial. Even the government statement does not address that issue. It is not settled.”

At the same time, Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba, in comments to The Sunday Mail newspaper, denied that the government and Mugabe’s family were at loggerheads over where the former president should be buried.

Zimbabweans have been confused about when and where they would get to pay their last respects to Mugabe since his death in a Singapore hospital on Friday after a long illness.

Mugabe 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.

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