Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Mnangagwa, Mugabe T-shirts divide mourners

By BLESSED MHLANGA

ZANU PF factional fights nearly marred former President Robert Mugabe’s largely low key funeral wake at Murombedzi Growth Point in Zvimba yesterday as the late leader’s followers protested against distribution of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s branded T-shirts at the event.

People in the stands sing songs, one wearing a jacket with the face of former president Robert Mugabe and another waving the national flag, as members of the public queue up to view his body at the Rufaro stadium in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. The ongoing uncertainty of the burial of Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore at the age of 95, has eclipsed the elaborate plans for Zimbabweans to pay their respects to the former guerrilla leader at several historic sites. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
People in the stands sing songs, one wearing a jacket with the face of former president Robert Mugabe and another waving the national flag, as members of the public queue up to view his body at the Rufaro stadium in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. The ongoing uncertainty of the burial of Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore at the age of 95, has eclipsed the elaborate plans for Zimbabweans to pay their respects to the former guerrilla leader at several historic sites. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Mugabe’s sympathisers had brought party regalia bearing their icon’s pictures, but were dwarfed by youths aligned to Mnangagwa who had bales of brand new regalia.

Tempers flared after Mugabe’s T-shirts were barred, leading to a stand-off that was eventually quelled by Zanu PF central committee member, Shiella Mabasa popularly known as Yondo Sister.

She told resistive mourners that Mnangagwa T-shirts were not meant to undermine or spite Mugabe.

“This party regalia was left over during the campaign period and we felt it was important to give our members as we mourn a departed hero of Zanu PF and Zimbabwe, it has nothing to do with politics,” Mabasa said.

The funeral wake was largely low key with very few people from Mugabe’s rural Zvimba coming to pay their last respects amid reports that the party structures had not adequately mobilised the grassroots.

Only five buses were at the venue, while top Zanu PF officials from the host province, Mashonaland West, were missing.

Only chairperson Ziyambi Ziyambi and Provincial Affairs minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka were the notable top party and government officials, alongside traditional leaders, present.

Ziyambi defended the low turnout, saying: “Most people had already travelled to Harare (Rufaro and National Sports Stadium) so that would explain why some are not here today.”

Close family sources, who refused to be named, said it could have been a deliberate move by Zanu PF to starve Mugabe of huge crowds.

“In our view, this was deliberate so that they paint a picture of a Mugabe who had lost support in his own home town. This would kill any attempts to use his name to form a formidable political party that can stand against Zanu PF,” the source said.

A Mnangagwa loyalist in the Zanu PF youth league executive, speaking on condition of anonymity said Mugabe’s death had killed the G40.

“The numbers show that he was already a spent force; he was also the money behind the entire operation and his death takes the sting out of the exiled members of his party,” he said.

Mugabe’s body will lie in state at his rural Kutama Mission home and will be flown to a Harare morgue while awaiting burial in about 30 days. Grace reportedly refused to allow the body of the late Mugabe to lie in State in the kitchen hut of his mother the late Bona Mugabe and instead insisted on having it in her own compound. NewsDay