By MacDonald Dzirutwe | AP |
Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe will be buried “sometime next week”, a family spokesman said on Thursday, but it remained unclear where he would be interred amid disagreement between his family and government over the funeral plans.
Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until he was ousted by his own army in November 2017, died in a Singapore hospital six days ago aged 95. His body arrived in Zimbabwe from Singapore on Wednesday and was due to lie in state on Thursday.
He is proving as polarising in death as he was in life, as the fight over where he will be buried threatens to embarrass his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party want Mugabe buried at a national monument to heroes of the liberation war against the white minority Rhodesian regime. The government had planned for a state funeral on Saturday and then burial on Sunday.
But some of Mugabe’s relatives have pushed back against that plan. They share Mugabe’s bitterness at the way former allies including Mnangagwa conspired to topple him and want him buried in his home village.
Leo Mugabe, the late president’s nephew, told Reuters the burial ceremony would be private, without saying where it would be.
“If I tell you that it won’t be private,” he said.
The family later issued a statement saying it was concerned about the manner in which the government was preparing the programme for Mugabe’s funeral “without consulting his immediate family”.
The family “also observed with shock that the Government of Zimbabwe is attempting to coerce us to accept a programme for funeral and burial” which was contrary to Mugabe’s wishes, the statement said.
“We are ready and willing to work with the government to develop a programme for the funeral and burial of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe which is in conformance to his wishes on how his mortal remains will be interred,” the family said.
On Thursday, ordinary Zimbabweans and supporters are expected to pay their last respects to Mugabe at a Harare soccer stadium, where the body will lie in state.