Row over Robert Mugabe’s funeral after ex-Zimbabwe leader’s death

Row erupts over Robert Mugabe’s funeral: Zimbabwe plans hero’s burial next Sunday but his family say the ‘bitter’ former dictator wanted to be buried in his home town without the leaders who turned against him

  • Robert Mugabe died in Singapore on Friday and a burial is planned for Sunday
  • Emmerson Mnangagwa wants to bury him at the National Heroes Acre in Harare
  • But family say he wanted to be buried quietly in his home town with his mother

Robert Mugabe’s family is at loggerheads with the Zimbabwean government over how the former dictator should be buried. 

Mugabe’s successor Emmerson Mnangangwa wants to bury his predecessor next Sunday in the National Heroes Acre, a hilltop shrine in Harare where a grave is waiting for the former President and his wife Grace. 

But Mugabe is believed to have told his family that he wanted to be buried quietly with his mother, denying the politicians and generals who toppled him in 2017 the chance to ‘pontificate’ over his dead body. 

A delegation is expected to leave from Zimbabwe today to collect his body. 

‘He died a very bitter man,’ family spokesman and nephew Leo Mugabe told reporters at the family’s rural home on Saturday. 

‘Imagine the people that are guarding you, that you trusted the most, turn against you.’ 

Mugabe died in hospital in Singapore on Friday at the age of 95, nearly two years after his 38-year rule was ended by a military coup.  

Robert Mugabe’s successor, current Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangangwa (pictured on Friday), wants to bury his predecessor at a hilltop shrine in Harare

Mugabe, pictured in April 2017 with his wife Grace, is believed to have told his family that he wanted to be buried quietly with his mother

According to state-run media, Mugabe’s body will arrive back in Zimbabwe on Wednesday. 

Mnangangwa and family members will receive his body at an airport named after Mugabe in Harare, according to reports. 

The body will be taken to his rural home about 50 miles south-west of Harare before being placed in a giant stadium for public viewing. 

Mnangagwa, who described Mr Mugabe as a ‘a great teacher and mentor’, declared him a national hero, the highest posthumous award in the country. 

Mugabe’s former ally-turned-foe replaced him as President in 2017 after the Zimbabwean military finally tired of Mugabe and placed him under house arrest. 

Mnangagwa had close ties to the military, who intervened to end the presidential ambitions of Mugabe’s wife Grace.  

He said official mourning will only end after the burial at the National Heroes Acre, a shrine reserved exclusively for Zimbabweans who made huge sacrifices during the war against white-minority rule.  

The bizarre centrepiece of Heroes Acre, which was built by North Korea, is a monument representing two AK-47 assault rifles, with the graves arranged to form magazines. 

Zimbabwe’s charge d’affaires Claudius Nhema and other visitors leave after attending a private religious service  today at Singapore Casket, the funeral parlour where Mugabe’s body is being held 

A grave is waiting for Mugabe at the North Korean-built National Heroes Acre monument (pictured) on the outskirts of the capital, but he will apparently leave it empty

His first wife Sally is already buried there and there is another vacant plot for his much-despised second wife Grace. 

However, Mugabe did not want Mnangagwa and his allies to ‘hold forth and pontificate over his dead body’ and make political capital out of his death, according to Zimbabwean media. 

Before losing the power of speech, he told his family he wanted to be buried next to his mother rather than given a ‘hero’s burial’ in Harare by the leaders who had turned against him.

‘He was very bitter and it dented his legacy, … it was not an easy thing for him,” Mugabe’s nephew said on Saturday. 

A source close to the family said that Mugabe was flown to Singapore five months ago where his health quickly deteriorated.  

In what appear to have been the last photos of Mugabe, the former dictator was seen looking frail and weak alongside his favourite son in June. 

Robert Jr, who spent much of his time with his father in his final months, shared photos of Mugabe looking slumped and shrivelled in a tracksuit, baseball cap and white beard.  

Visitors leave the Singapore Casket funeral parlour today. Mugabe’s body is expected to return to Zimbabwe on Wednesday

These photographs of the Robert Mugabe, taken in Singapore, show him looking frail and weak alongside his favourite son Robert Junior and may be the last ever taken of him

Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 40  years, during which time there was widespread bloodshed, persecution of political opponents and vote-rigging on a large scale

Mugabe’s visible ailments were often shrouded in mystery. Officials often said he was being treated for a cataract, denying frequent private media reports that he had prostate cancer.   

Flags flew at half mast in Harare on Saturday where only a handful of supporters came out onto the streets. 

Mugabe came to power in 1980 as the founding leader of Zimbabwe, initially hailed as a liberator after the country became fully independent from British rule. 

But his own reign was marked by murder, bloodshed, torture, persecution of political opponents, intimidation and vote-rigging on a grand scale. 

The economy of a mineral-rich country descended into chaos with thousands of people reduced to grinding poverty. 

Since coming to power, Mnangagwa promised reforms that would lift economic growth and create jobs but he has made little progress. 

Mugabe also became a pariah in the West after controversial land reforms which boosted Mugabe’s personal wealth.   

Despite Zimbabwe’s decline during his rule, Mugabe remained defiant, railing against the West for what he called its neo-colonialist attitude.  

He enjoyed some support among peers in Africa who admired him for taking a hard line with the West, and several current African leaders paid tribute after his death.

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